and other Dominique Ostuni treasures. plus hot air balloons, disc golf and more.
I set three alarms on my phone: 6:50PM (to get my game face on and warm up those fingers), 6:55PM (are you ready!?) and the most critical: the 7:00PM buzz (go go go! don’t look back!)
At 7PM on the nose, I ever so slightly hesitated hitting the purchase button - proving to be a split-second, fatal error. Greedy for another (despite knowing better) I went back to the shop to add just one more to my cart. At 7:02PM, thinking I miraculously got away with my quick diversion, I returned to my cart only to find it cleared. Because within those two minutes, Dominique Ostuni had completely sold out from her latest webshop drop.
I couldn’t tell you how I initially stumbled upon Dominique’s work - but ever since her ceramic mugs found their way to my feed, I’ve attempted to purchase one (or some, mistakes were made!) unsuccessfully, a handful of times. I’m not the only one, clearly, who is enraptured with her assembled by hand mugs, her winsome treasures.
And it’s not just her mugs that fill her admirer’s carts: it’s intricate candle holders, one of a kind plates, sweet bowls. It’s her extraordinarily labored, gold gilded butter domes that take up to 5 hours for her to make. An item that, I’d decisively point to if someone asked me - let’s say - what I wanted for my next birthday (ahem, Andrew, sweet husband of almost a decade, are you reading this?)
However, one mug in particular, out of a strong lineup of beauty, pushed it’s way to the front for me. Flecks of gold luster lining colorful flowers across the perfectly-unperfect texture of a mug, a sentence is scribbled: “I’ve Been Thinking About What You Said.”
I’m an early riser, to the tune of 5AM most days, and until my kiddo wakes between 6-7AM, those silent AM sips of coffee are sacred in our house. If my husband is awake as well, we offer warm smiles instead of spoken good mornings and we slip into a solitary silence - reading, thinking, sitting still. Most often, I find myself replaying yesterday, revisiting a conversation from the week prior, digesting, fully using my brain when I feel it works the best. I always joke that anything great I have accomplished in my life, any idea I’ve expanded upon, nearly all of my writing - was done so by 6AM. I sit, sip coffee, and as the sun comes up, I’m processing - I’m thinking about what you said.
Despite my longing to hold that mug during my daily morning contemplation, I’ve always come up short during her webshop drops. So when I got to meet Dominique in her studio last month, I ever so discreetly kept a look out.
Hailing from Syracuse NY, Dominique grew up in “an Italian American household through and through” complete with “Sunday red sauce, loud conversations, the constant sight of garlic and herbs hung in the kitchen, my mothers reservation book on the kitchen table for her restaurant,” that when it came time for college, she longed for a slower pace. Her highschool sweetheart was headed to Maine, so with a resolution to find more meaning and quietude, she followed. “I chose love,” she began, “and luckily Maine decided to choose me back. I will never leave this state. It has always felt like home.”
Dominique’s studio, where her tranquility dream is manifested, is tucked away deep in the woods of Bowdoinham, Maine, at the end of a long dirt driveway. Wildflowers circle the studio, pops of color reminiscent of her artwork, hummingbirds and bees mingling, ducking and fluttering. The space she shares with fellow potter, Sara Cox of Delilah Pottery, can only be described as whimsical, ethereal. Working alongside each other brings days where they “work in an agreeable silence, some days we can’t stop laughing” while almost all feature “rich conversations of ceramics and secrets filling the air.” I know I have a tendency to over-romanticize things, but folks: the whole scene is idyllic, the studio earnestly resembling a backdrop of a fairy tale.
Harmonious with the birds outside, Dominique flutters throughout her space with an airy, soft elegance. With a kiln on one end, some in-the-works in the center of the space, a propped open laptop alongside a stack of completed treasures - it’s dizzying to think she does it all herself. The creating, of course, but the photographing, the website maintenance, the packaging and shipping, maintaining dialogues on her social media filled with thousands upon thousands of fans. At one moment, while scanning mugs, I felt compelled: “has this all soaked in? do you feel proud of yourself?”
Impossible, loaded questions, of course. “I still get butterflies,” she says, referring to the seconds leading up to her webshop drops, “Honestly, Chelsea, I still cannot believe people like my work as much as I do. This work is so important to me, an intimate lens into my writings and secrets. The only way I can be unabashedly myself. I hope I get to do this forever and after that, too.”
I got my mug - and over the next few mornings, with coffee to the brim in my precious pot, I replayed Dominique’s words. Thinking about Maine and it’s uncanny ability to hook people, never letting go. About pride and creation, how to reconcile both. Thinking about the power of community, and social media too. About vulnerability, and artistic freedom, leaning into what feels true.
About strategies for nabbing a butter dome in the next webshop drop. That too.
I assume you are now equally obsessed with Dominique’s work - so, as a thank you to paid subscribers, I have one Dominique Ostuni pinch pot to giveaway to a lucky human!
All paid subscribers are automatically entered, and the winner will be chosen & emailed on Wednesday, July 5th!
If you’d like to be eligible for this & future equally awesome giveaways, here’s two ways:
Consider becoming a paid subscriber here to join the fun!
Or: successfully refer 3 friends to Gadabout Maine through Substack’s new referral program - and you’ll receive a 1 month comped paid subscription! Use this button to share on social or via email and your referrals will automatically be reflected on your account. Thanks in advance for the support!
A gigantic thank you to everyone who participated in the survey last newsletter! I shall add a third newsletter to the mix! Beginning this month, expect the usual 1st & 15th newsletter each month - plus a bonus one thrown in. Wahoo!
But without further adieu, more adventures below to help fill that sweet summertime cal: