Turning Clay into Magic

Dirtworks Ceramics is a Southern Fauquier Gem

When Ahnalisa Reavis goes into town for errands, inadvertently carrying hints of her current pottery project on her clothes, she is often mistaken for someone who works in construction. Which isn’t quite untrue. But her version of construction is something so strikingly unique and beautiful, it’s no wonder her business is so successful. 

Owner of Dirtworks Ceramics in Bealeton, Reavis is living her best life: running her shop full time along with her husband Matt and little assistant Oliver. While she envisioned a career in photography when she began her studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, the blessing in disguise came when she connected with pottery.

“The universe knew better,” Reavis says. Although she had experimented with all kinds of mediums in art, and had always loved crafts, she found that pottery’s appeal was its difficulty, especially as a beginner. With an aunt who has been a lifelong potter in Alaska, Reavis saw her and others around her creating amazing pieces. “I was determined to figure this out,” she says. She did... and thus began a path towards small business owner and happiness. 

What began as a hobby and side business became the family’s sole income when Reavis’ husband was laid off from work. But instead of panicking, Reavis says her thoughts were: “This is good news!” and she knew it was pottery’s time to shine. It just felt right for both of them to be able to be home with their son and live this type of life as a family. 

A typical day for Reavis begins with “Oliver time” in the morning and “throwing [clay] all day” in the studio, sometimes while listening to Game of Thrones on audiobook. (Reavis highly recommends it to those of us suffering GoT withdrawal after the finale.) 

Dirtworks’ bestseller is the zodiac mug, a piece unlike anything found elsewhere. Always into astrology, Reavis desired to incorporate this into a custom mug using a galaxy glaze. To watch Reavis craft these mugs is like seeing magic come to life. Once the mug is formed, the handle is added, which in itself was a process of taking criticism (from loved ones) and putting it into practice until she created the perfect one. Reavis then adds layers, constructing the 3-D element, and the individual zodiac art piece with blades. These layers are sculptural and this is part of what makes Dirtworks’ pieces stand out from others. 

The pieces go through their first firing in the kiln to prepare them for color. The tedious work begins with painting and glazing, sometimes adding luster colors for the elements to the zodiac design. All the pieces are loaded into the kiln and then the waiting begins. Even though she has a hard time not opening the kiln to peek at the result, Reavis knows that some glazes need a slow cool to truly bring out their beauty. 

But this mug isn’t the only piece that shines from Reavis’ collection. Scrolling through Dirtwork’s Instagram feed reveals pottery featuring toadstools, fairy doors, enchanted forest, tarot cards, suns and moons, cats, eyes, stars, an occasional glimpse of Oliver, and behind-the-scenes shots of Reavis in her element. But Reavis is in a constant state of evolution, always seeking new processes and products to add to her shop. She has made jewelry, incense burners, ring holders, colanders, pie plates, and so much more. 

Reavis does not have a storefront; all her sales are done online. But don't worry if you see the products are sold out. Stay tuned for her once a month release notifying customers of restocking. The announcements are put out on her website, social media, and to her email subscribers. 

When it came to naming her business, it was pretty simple. “Clay is just dirt,” says Reavis. But her customers would beg to differ. Dirtworks is a true gem in Southern Fauquier, and Reavis has a unique ability to turn clay into magic. Check out her work on Facebook and Instagram to see for yourself. 


Christine Craddock
About Christine Craddock 128 Articles
Christine Craddock is a writer, editor, photographer, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is a faithful contributing writer for Haymarket Lifestyle magazine and has resided in Haymarket since 2006.

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