When Chelsea Hirschhorn organized a summer gathering in July at her house in Amagansett, N.Y., she made sure to include one party trick: pottery wheels. She hosted 15 adults for a ceramics class, where they sipped cocktails while spinning the wheels on her deck, shaping cups and bowls out of clay, followed by a paella feast and games of poker.
Then in August, Ms. Hirschhorn, the founder of Frida, a company that sells baby products, hosted another party, this time for her son’s 10th birthday. In addition to a pool with a zip-line, an ice cream truck and a pizza truck, there was a ceramic station with pottery wheels.
This summer in the Hamptons, D.J.s aren’t the only ones doing the spinning. A semi-recent fad has taken ahold of the moneyed elite who spend their summer in the coastal destination: clay camp, in which adults and children alike can try out pottery wheels at home and at parties.
Over the past couple of years, Cameron Bishop, the ceramist behind the pop-up service, has split her time between summers in Montauk, N.Y, and winters in Seattle with her daughter, Beau, 8. Ms. Bishop started her clay catering service in the summer of 2021, when people were looking for something creative to do outside — partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic — and the business blew up in popularity this year.
She wanted to bring a new source of fun to the Hamptons. “There has to be more to life,” Ms. Bishop said, than just wiling away the time living in one’s phone.
Ms. Bishop paid her way through eight years of art school — the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and the Art Institute of Chicago — by working in high-end hotels. She runs a full studio in Seattle with two kilns and a ceramics line, named Beau Rush Ceramics, that she sells online. Her background in hospitality, she believes, is what makes her service thrive.
Ms. Bishop has secured many of her clients through word of mouth, offering services to friends of friends. “Daphne Oz came to one of the birthdays I did, and the next thing you know, I’m teaching her kids,” Ms. Bishop, 41, said. “Later in the week, she came to a class and brought her B.F.F., fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, and Rebecca also brought some of her kids.”
She brings everything needed for a pottery party: the tables, the chairs, the umbrellas, the clay and, of course, the wheels — which require only water and electricity. “We come, set up for 45 minutes, everyone comes to the class and then we clean up and leave no trace,” she said, adding that she later bakes the clay in a kiln so partygoers can keep their creations.
In August, Ms. Bishop was hired in Southampton by Lauren Santo Domingo, a co-founder and the chief brand officer of the luxury site Moda Operandi, to host a class for her children and their friends. “The kids had all just been to a Taylor Swift concert, and they were wearing their Taylor Swift beads on their wrist, and they were worried about getting them dirty,” Ms. Bishop said, laughing.
In Sagaponack, at the house of Rebecca Hessel Cohen, the founder of the clothing brand LoveShackFancy, Ms. Bishop set up her class in a lush garden full of pink flowers, near Ms. Cohen’s classic pink Moke car.
Ms. Bishop has also been a regular at the British actress Naomi Watts’s home in Montauk for two summers now. “I learned about Cameron’s ceramics class through friends on Instagram,” Ms. Watts said in a text message. Ms. Watts had been cast to play a ceramist on the television show “The Watcher,” which debuted in October 2022, and needed a crash course.
“Cameron and I did a few solos, the kids came and did a bit, too, and then I had a couple occasions with friends joining,” Ms. Watts said. “We would bask in the afternoon sun with a gin and tonic, chat and create till our hearts were content.”
“We all got completely hooked,” she added. Ms. Watts later showed off her new pottery skills on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The physical aspect of playing with clay can be strangely addicting, which may explain the appeal of pottery making. “I don’t know why the wheel is so enticing,” said Julia Stegner, 38, a model who hired Ms. Bishop to teach a class for her family. “Maybe it’s the playfulness, how quickly you can form this piece of clay into this thing.”
“It’s so earthy, it’s so grounding, and then you can make something that you can use and eat out of,” added Ms. Stegner, who is considering buying her own wheel.
For those who don’t want to organize a class, Ms. Bishop also sells at-home clay kits (each comes with a piece of canvas, clay, tools, instructions and her contact details to arrange a pick up) online and at Crow’s Nest, a waterside restaurant and gift shop in Montauk owned by her friend. They cost $95, and afterward Ms. Bishop can take care of the baking. “Sean MacPherson and his family took four of them,” Ms. Bishop said.
Ms. Bishop believes that people are often drawn to clay making because it gives them something elusive: a feeling of control.
“At Lauren Santo Domingo’s house, some participants were talking about making the piece perfect, and I was like, ‘No, no, no, that is not the point,’” Ms. Bishop said. “At the wheel, this thing didn’t exist until you put your hands on it, and it can become anything you choose. You have complete and total agency.”