In Gallery 5830’ in downtown Truckee, Maggie Hargrave sits me down on a homemade wooden stool made of reclaimed cedar fence posts and a rusty old tractor seat. Then she serves me hot coffee in one of her wood-fired mugs. Warm and smooth, it feels almost as if it was made for my hands.
“The community here is so strong. It pulls you in and before you know it you have friendships with like-minded people who are really inspiring.” –Maggie Hargrave
“I’m a self-taught potter,” says Hargrave. “Another way to say that is I’m an informally-taught-by-many-people potter.”
Aesthetically, Hargrave’s work includes a lot of detailed glazing known as drawing.
“My pottery is functional and inspired by lines and patterns in nature and the scenery of my day to day,” she says.
Hargrave’s lifelong passion began at Nottingham High School in inner city Syracuse, N.Y.
“I had an awesome art teacher named Ms. Paratore,” she says. “I’d go hang out with her for large amount of times when I was supposed to be in statistics and things like that.”
When Hargrave moved to the Bronx to study anthropology and comparative literature at Fordham University, she brought a pottery wheel with her.
“We had a concrete patio in what is mostly a Dominican and Puerto Rican neighborhood,” she says. “Any time I’d throw outside our tenement building, it was a community event.”
After graduation, Hargrave received a Fulbright fellowship to research patterns of rural-to-urban migration in Bolivia.
The scholarship covered her expenses for 10 months. She stayed for almost three years, volunteering at a cultural center for boys who migrated to the capital city Sucre from outlying areas.
“I was terrible at ethnographic research,” Hargrave says. “I was always wanting to be more involved in people’s lives. I learned I really want to work with kids because I’m still a little kid.”
On returning home to Syracuse, Hargrave worked in refugee resettlement with families from Burma, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was a fun switch for me from being welcomed into another culture to being the person giving the welcome to new Americans,” she says.
When the job ended, Hargrave and her colleague Annalise Kjolhede moved to Tahoe to teach skiers at Alpine Meadows for what was going to be one season. Seven years later, she is still here.
“Truckee and the lifestyle here fit so well for me,” she says. “I didn’t realize I loved it as much as I do.”
Tragically, Kjolhede passed away in an early season back-country skiing accident in 2012, a loss which had a profound effect on Hargrave.
“When Annalise died, I thought a lot about what I was going to do with my one wild and precious life,” she says, referencing a line from “The Summer Day” by poet Mary Oliver. “I thought about growing my skill and craft.”
One day on her way home from Alpine she stopped at a local pottery studio on a whim.
“They let me sit down and throw in my snow pants without asking if I knew what I was doing,” she says.
As Hargrave goes back into her memory, a far-off, teary look enters her eyes: “I started waking up in the middle of the night with ideas I wanted to do. I decided to open my own studio and shop in my garage.”
Hence, her studio Clay & Pine was born. Meanwhile, Hargrave had begun working for the Family Resource Center of Truckee as a housing advocate. She now runs the center’s Promotora Program, which focuses on public health outreach to the Latino community.
“I love the organization and the amount of intention and energy people are able to put into creating a vibrant community,” she says.
When Truckee Roundhouse opened in 2016, town councilman Morgan Goodwin thought Hargrave would make the perfect ceramics shop lead. At the makerspace, Hargrave combines her love of community building with creating.
“The community here is so strong,” says Hargrave. “It pulls you in and before you know it you have friendships with like-minded people who are really inspiring. Then you’re doing so many things you never thought you could do because you’re doing them all with a lot help.”
Hargrave is now a partner at Gallery 5830’ where she sells her pottery alongside glass sculptures, handmade furniture and jewelry.
“Most of the time, I’m just sort of throwing stuff at the wall,” she says. “But I’m super content with my growth process and the amount of learning that’s left to come.”