Pottery by Bulgar USA, run by Donna and George Hadjipopov of Montauk, has been getting a lot of attention lately. It has been featured in Vogue, House Beautiful, and Southern Living, and will be in the November issues of both Elle Decor and Harper’s Bazaar. “A lot of people in fashion have discovered me,” Ms. Hadjipopov said this week at Gansett Lane in Montauk, where Bulgar USA dinnerware, serving ware, teapots, and vases are sold.
Last month, a part of the company’s new Mandala collection won best new product in the tabletop division at the gift show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. In addition to the press attention, the Bulgarian-made pottery has also won over interior designers, and, thanks to one of them, Michael C. Smith, a client, Bulgar USA pottery has graced the dinner table at parties hosted by Michelle and Barack Obama.
Mr. Hadjipopov, who is known around Montauk as Bulgarian George, founded the company in the early 1990s, when he started importing aromatic rose oil for use in natural skin care products. Ms. Hadjipopov was looking for a place to buy rose water and came across information about Bulgar in a resource guide while riding the train to Montauk. She contacted the company, met Mr. Hadjipopov, and before long, the two were married.
On a visit to her husband’s hometown in Bulgaria, Ms. Hadjipopov fell in love with the work of local artisans, she said. She wanted to find a way to encourage local crafts and also support the Bulgarian people. In 1997, the couple formed Bulgar USA and began to import pottery that is now made with a clay base so it doesn’t break as easily and is lead free.
“It’s a close collaboration to help people that had no work with something that was inherently beautiful,” she said. The pieces feature “a traditional Bulgarian design that mixes well with white.”
A painting contractor and fisherman who is good with his hands, Mr. Hadjipopov built a garage on the couple’s property to house the ceramic ware, which was soon selling out through word of mouth alone. Eventually, they moved their inventory to a warehouse in East Hampton.
Transporting the pottery from Bulgaria is the toughest part of the business, Ms. Hadjipopov said. It can take up to a month for a container to arrive in the United States, and with airport security so tight in recent years the containers are searched and even emptied in the process.
She has two assistants in Bulgaria who oversee the operation there, but most of her work is done on a computer.
Ms. Hadjipopov was recently approached by a company that is working with the Italian government to foster a similar business relationship in Italy. It’s an offer she is considering. “What I do is now called social entrepreneurialism or conscious capitalism. It’s really fun; I’m having a blast,” she said.