Where Beautiful Things Are Born

Clay is infectious for Portsmouth-based Sherród Faulks of Deep Black, whose minimalist housewares have appeared in Real Simple, Southern Living and The New York Times
Photos courtesy of Sherród Faulks

Designer Sherród Faulks is deep. He keeps an ancestral altar in his house “to be reminded of where I come from and who I come from,” he says reverently. And he’s Black: “All the Faulks in this area descended from one runaway slave.”

But that isn’t why he labeled his burgeoning brand Deep Black. “That’s a place where my ideas come from. It’s everything and nothing. It’s in my mind, and it’s out there,” he explains the inexplicable. “A place where beautiful things are born.”

Those beautiful things are handcrafted ceramics like the cup into which he’s serenely pouring cold brew jasmine tea for a guest, and ramekins cradling mint leaves, dehydrated limes and Demerara simple syrup—ingredients he says he keeps on hand because, “I get crazy for cocktails in the summer heat.”

Scratch beneath their surface, and you’ll intuit that his striking vases and pasta bowls and stash jars fuse together all that he’s done and desires—fashion, technology, photography and cooking laced with music, always music—to create an aesthetic he catapults into the universe along with a fervent prayer that it will inspire others to cultivate their own style.

His prayers have been answered.

Faulks’s work caught the eye of heavyweights including Madewell and Meredith (America’s largest digital and print publisher). His minimalist housewares pop up as props in Real Simple and Southern Living. They’ve appeared in The New York Times “Sunday Style” section. Above the fold.
Locally, you can dine off a Deep Black dish at Downtown Norfolk’s Codex.

His pieces are a study in contrasts, juxtaposing raw and glazed exteriors, not unlike their maker. Faulks describes himself as an introvert with social anxiety. Then, in the next breath, he shares how he recently went clubbing in Philadelphia after a Beyoncé concert (his fourth): “I vogued until my thighs gave out.”

BREAKING BAD Faulks makes objects “for people to love for life.” But he also loves it when they break, he says: “It means they were used, loved and served their purpose.”
BREAKING BAD Faulks makes objects “for people to love for life.” But he also loves it when they break, he says: “It means they were used, loved and served their purpose.”

Such contradictions, richly mixed, pave his path to creating holistic, intentional, multipurpose items for every room in the house.

They’re objets d’art, but they’re dishwasher and microwave safe, spanning a spectrum of price points. “You shouldn’t have to break the bank to have beautiful things,” he says.

Clay was not his calling when he was growing up in Virginia Beach, nerding out in Landstown High School’s A-V Club. He majored in computer science at William & Mary, transferred to Parsons School of Design, then dropped out to take a lucrative job in the tech sector.

In 2019, after divorcing his husband, he sought an astrologer’s advice. “She told me to do all those things I hadn’t done that relate to abundance,” he recounts. “Absent the concept of money.”

So he took a pottery class: “I touched the clay and said, ‘This is it!’”

He was so fired up that he taught himself wheel throwing because the class was moving too slowly. “It was infectious,” he says. “It was the first time in life I could make the thing I wanted to have. And I didn’t need a six-figure job that stressed me.”

Now 35, he lives in a house in Portsmouth that he bought primarily because of its 1,000-square-foot, detached garage. He transformed it into his studio (aka “Temple”) where sandalwood incense wafts through climate-controlled air along with a curated playlist including artists like Cleo Sol to help him “get into a state of flow” designing retail and wholesale/hospitality lines as well as custom orders.

His first permanent collection, Osteria*Moderna (Modern Kitchen), arose from his culinary pursuits. Kemet (Black Land) was sparked by his idiosyncratic spiritual practices and a revelatory 2017 trip to Egypt where, as a Black man, he says he felt he finally blended in. “A statue in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities stopped me in my tracks,” he recalls. “The broad nose, wide eyes, shaved head. It looked like me.”

He plasters cabinets with sketches as ideas erupt (often in the middle of the night when he leans into his insomnia), nearby shelves bulge with work at varying stages, and orders are outpacing his kiln’s capacity.

As he scales up, he unwaveringly begets “things for people to love for life.” Then adds, “But I love when they break. It means they were used, loved and served their purpose.”

Learn more at DeepBlack.shop.

Marisa Marsey Headshot
Marisa Marsey

Marisa Marsey is a food, beverage and travel writer whose awards include 1st place Food Writing from the Virginia Press Association. A Johnson & Wales University representative, she has sipped Château d'Yquem '75 with Jean-Louis Palladin, sherpa-ed for Edna Lewis and savored interviews with Wolfgang Puck and Patrick O’Connell.

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