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Behind Joe Skoby's Ocean-Inspired Ceramics

Meet the fish shop manager turned ceramacist who cranks out high-end masterpieces


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Photo by Joseph Aguirre

Seeing his ceramic pieces next to antiques sourced from Paris and adored by big-name designers like Peter Dunham is a stark contrast to Joe Skoby’s humble retail beginnings. Technically, the ceramicist was discovered, of all places, in a fish market—El Pescador in La Jolla.

“The owner allowed me to put my pieces up on the counter to sell,” says Skoby, who 15 years later is now a manager of the market/restaurant—by night.

By day, he’s at a pottery wheel in his Bird Rock backyard, spinning clay into vaselike sculptures or, as he sees them, “nonfunctional ornamental pieces of sculptural art. Whatever people do with them is cool.”

Amy Meier is the first San Diego retailer to carry his pieces, including a Grecian-inspired collection custom-made for the shop. But most of Skoby’s sales are made online. An individual piece can take up to a month from start to finish, and they’re priced from $350 to $700. Most are influenced by his favorite hobby: surfing.

“I’m always looking at what the winds and tides and swells are doing,” he says. That translates into details like grooving, crazing, and blistering reminiscent of a stone weathered by the ocean, or glazing suggesting tides pulling back from the shore.

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