I walked into a spacious room with picnic tables, colorful mats laid out like place settings, nice music, and a friendly host, but this was no restaurant. No, I had entered “The Kiln”, the new pottery studio in the Hampton Square Building, the large brick building on the corner of Hwy 5 and Mountain Street (occupying the space next to Blue Jeans Pizza)
On this day, Spencer, who usually runs the kilns and finishes/polishes the pieces was pulling extra duty as manager, but on a typical day Sara Morales would be running the upstairs ops. Charming, courteous and helpful, Spencer is an absolute gem and a true asset to this business.
The clean, uncluttered space and modern décor immediately set a soothing mood. There was only one person busy at work when I arrived, but that rapidly changed during my stay. Lola, the young lady working on a Christmas tree plate during an outing with her grandmother, was doing a very nice job and enjoying herself immensely.
What’s not to enjoy? Here’s how it goes: you pick out a raw piece from the impressive selection. Prices are clearly displayed for each piece, and include all the glaze you will need, 4 color choices (additional colors may be purchased), pre-processing to make your item food and dishwasher safe, baking in the kiln at 1835 degrees Fahrenheit, and finishing/polishing.
Processing your piece takes about a week, and finished pieces can either be picked up or shipped (rates vary depending on destination.) They will also hold your piece until your next trip to the area!
For those who want to leave with their creation, they have a “paint and take” option using acrylic paints, which requires only 2-3 hours before it is ready to leave. Note that the acrylic will not result in a glossy/smooth pottery finish, but a textured feel.
Presently, they are starting their winter hours: 11-9 on Friday and Saturday and 11-7 on Sunday. In Mid-March they will return to normal operational hours of 11-9 M, Th, F, S and 11-7 on Sunday. (Closed Tues/Wed)
Saturday nights offer Pottery Parties: purchase a ticket for $10 (food only) or $20 (food and beverage; wine and beer available) plus the price of your piece. Truthfully, this is a fabulous opportunity for bridal parties, baby showers, birthdays, corporate retreats, or just a friends' getaway session. The studio time is included and there is no pressure to hurry.
I didn’t intend to make anything; it’s our busy season and I had many obligations pulling at me. But after chatting with Spencer and seeing how much fun Lola was having, I couldn’t resist. I selected the 20-ounce tea mug, and since Lola had finished her project and selected a beautiful palate of colors, (and hating to see glaze go to waste) I grabbed some brushes from the containers hanging on the wall and settled in.
Spencer brought me a glass of water to rinse my brushes and a towel, and I was off! I was working with a deep red, orange, blue and a nice green. Being mindful not to create anything that resembled Florida Gator colors for my Tennessee Vol loving husband (he’s the tea drinker in our family) I went with a red interior, orange exterior, blue base, and accented with green abstract patterns from a fan brush.
They have stencils that allow you to create absolutely stunning pieces, but I’m a fly by the seat of my pants sort of gal, so I just free handed it and had fun. It was a blast!
A charming father and his two children came in, selected pieces and began working, and a young boy who was visiting from Atlanta dragged his dad in from the pizzeria to show him. Spencer and I chatted with him after his dad returned to lunch and the boy stayed to pick out his piece for his ‘after lunch session’; he said he did pottery all the time and regaled us with stories of school projects. His enthusiasm was delightful.
As Spencer attended to getting folks additional paint, etc., I simply relaxed into the rhythm of working on my piece and when he returned to ask how I was doing, I realized I was doing *just fine*. All of the stress that had been plaguing me was gone and I was happy and calm. Creating art has that effect on you, I think. It doesn’t have to be perfect, up to anyone’s standards, or “good enough.” It just has to BE. It’s the process that matters: being still and losing yourself in something new and fun. In that regard, The Kiln has it going on and for the enjoyment and relaxation provided, the experience is priceless! I can easily see this being my go to place when I need a dose of happy, and highly recommend giving it a try.