The Pottery Place really taking shape

Published 3:43 pm Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alex Antzes, of Chesapeake, Ohio, joins his mom, Cynthia Clagg, at The Pottery Place to create unique items for their home.

For people who consider themselves less than artsy, hearing the word “pottery” conjures up images like the scene from the movie “Ghost.” Complicated, messy and too difficult to attempt. But residents all over the Tri-State are finding out it doesn’t have to be that way.

At The Pottery Place, located in Pullman Square in Huntington, W.Va., you can choose an already-formed bisque — a piece of unglazed pottery — and paint it right there, with all the supplies at your disposal. With more than 100 pieces to choose from, and more than 100 paint colors, your art can be as simplistic or creative as you choose.

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Choosing a bisque is the first step, and with all of the options, that is not an easy task. The variety of bisques include something that would fit just about anyone, from plates and coffee mugs to trays, coasters, garden gnomes and soap dispensers. For the younger crowds, there are a variety of coin banks, mirrors and ice cream bowls and much more. There are always seasonal items available too, that change frequently, like Easter bunnies and Christmas trees.

Once the piece has been chosen, the options are wide open on what you can to do with it. The staff will explain how to do whatever it is you want to try, whether it is simply a solid color, using stencils, copying an image from transfer paper, sponging or specialty glazes, just to name a few.

After the piece is completed, the item is paid for and turned in to be glazed and fired in the kiln and it is ready to be picked up in about a week.

“My favorite part is when they come back to pick it up and they decide they’re going to stay and paint something that day, because A, they had a good time, and B, they’re really happy with their piece when they get it back,” said owner Laya Hutchison.

Hutchison said a customer doesn’t need a certain skill level to paint at The Pottery Place, just a desire to come in and have a good time.

“My vision was for people to come in and spend time with family and friends and create memories together, and that’s what happens when you come into a pottery studio.”

The prices can fit just about anyone’s budget. The cost is listed below each bisque on the shelf, and the price is all-inclusive. There is no extra charge for paint or for the amount of time spent in the studio, just the listed price and sales tax. A person can paint a $4 keychain or special-order a large oval platter for $83.

The time it takes to paint an item varies, depending on the item and the detail the customer wants to put in it. For people who can’t get it all finished in one day, the studio offers pottery-in-progress.

“If you get started on something and run out of time, you leave it here, and pay for the piece the day you begin to paint on it. After that, you can come in and paint on it as often as you want,” Hutchison said. “We don’t charge you for time.”

Hutchison said they ask that the pottery be completed within two months so there will be room to store them.

Hutchison said there is no certain demographic that they cater to, but that she sees it as something everyone can enjoy.

“Painting pottery is age-appropriate for everyone. There are no boundaries to it,” Hutchison said. “My youngest customers, and it’s been more than once, have been 6-week old babies to have handprints and footprints made. We’ve had The Red Society come in and paint. We’ve had guys bring girls for date nights. It’s just age-appropriate for everyone. I don’t have a specific demographic for who my customer is. My customer is everyone.”

When Hutchison first opened The Pottery Place, she hoped it would do well, but she didn’t imagine it would do as well as it has.

The business first started on Eighth Avenue in the West End of Huntington and as the business grew, Hutchison needed more space and more parking. In June of 2010, the Pottery Place moved to Pullman Square.

Hutchison said one of the benefits of being in Pullman Square is having other businesses and restaurants nearby, offering the customers more options. They can bring food and beverages into the Pottery Place or they can take a break to eat and come back to finish the pottery.

“There are lots of choices for people to do something before or afterward,” she said. “You can come here and have an entire experience versus just painting pottery.

“It has actually been busier than I expected it to be,” Hutchison said. “I was hoping to have an increase in foot traffic in the studio because of the location, but it has actually surprised me even from my expectations.”

The Pottery Place offers parties for guests of eight or more, and can accommodate more than 100 people. In addition to birthday parties, scouting troops, book clubs, baby and bridal showers, businesses and sports teams have had events at the Pottery Place.

Pottery-to-go is offered if a group can’t make it to the studio. The bisques and supplies are sent with you and returned, then the finished pieces are picked up a week from the time they are turned back in.

The Pottery Place has mobile events where a studio employee goes to the event to instruct the group and to transport the supplies.

In the summer, the studio offers workshops for children and teens.

Gift cards are available for any amount. The studio also has fundraising opportunities.

“We are constantly evolving,” Hutchison said. “I feel we change based on what the customers’ needs are.”

Hutchison couldn’t be happier with how the business is going.

“I’m very, very thankful people have received us so well. They got it. That’s why I was able to grow. I was able to take what my dream was for this, my vision, and with the help of the community, I was able to make it a reality and grow it. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if people hadn’t supported it.”