Offering clay kits complete with firing service during lockdown allowed customers to try new things and stay creative. It also allowed this artist to expand her business.  

Before the pandemic, I called pottery my “hobby jobby” and balanced ceramics with working in a restaurant. I worked with clay regularly and had a studio in my basement, but it stressed me out to even think about being financially dependent on my art. I never saw myself becoming a full-time potter; however, in March of 2020, I, like many others, got laid off from my job. I spent my days doing pottery as a means of staying centered during an otherwise incredibly stressful time. I started to think about how helpful working with clay was for me, and began considering what it could look like to share that experience with others.

1 Katie Cameron stands in front of her porch, where she began making clay kits available for pickup in March 2020.

Realizing a New Experience

One day I realized that my front porch would be a great socially distanced spot to offer take-home clay kits from. That day, I photographed a pound of clay, along with a toothpick and Popsicle stick tool set, and 1 ounce of underglaze. I posted the picture to my Instagram (@crybabyclay), explaining that I was selling clay kits for $10/lb, which included the clay, underglaze, a tool set, as well as the firing and clear glazing of the completed projects. People would pick up their kit, create, then drop off their work for me to fire, and I’d let them know when their projects were ready for pickup. 

To be honest, I assumed that a handful of my friends would order a few kits and then the whole thing would fizzle out. Amazingly, that was not the case! People were so excited about the clay kits that my porch door actually broke from everybody coming and going (though I’m sure the sticky latch combined with Midwest winds also contributed to the damage).

I transitioned to a storage-bin system out front, then eventually some amazing architect friends of mine built me a beautiful dropbox by the sidewalk for the clay kits. The doors were clear so people could see all of the pots coming and going, and I had a decal explaining what the box was for and how to order. It was really great advertising and prompted even more growth for my business!

2 Temporary clay-kit drop box set outside after the porch door broke. 1, 2 Photos: Carina Lofgren.

Getting Feedback

Since the start of the clay kits, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from community members letting me know how glad they were for an opportunity to play with clay. Clay-kit customers range from total beginners to experienced potters, and everybody in between! There are a lot of potential barriers to working with clay, and outside of paying for a firing membership or investing the time and money into classes, it may not feel feasible to casually dabble in ceramics—especially during a pandemic. Providing access for people to casually work with clay was what made the clay kits successful, and as my basement studio started to reach capacity, I began to daydream about a more public studio that could provide even more opportunities for community access. 

3 Cameron stands in front of a new clay-kit drop box made and installed by designer/architects Koto and Austin Watanabe. Photo: Easton Green.

A New Space and Community

The need to expand came pretty abruptly. It was a decision that I wasn’t expecting to make so soon, but went for it knowing in my gut that it was the right choice. I ended up moving my studio from my basement to a storefront down the street, almost exactly one year after I first started selling clay kits. In that year’s time, I got called back to the restaurant I worked at before the pandemic, and ended up quitting that job to fully invest all of my time and attention into my business, Cry Baby Clay. I started to realize that my long-held stance of not wanting to be a full-time potter was just coming from a place of fear. Now that I actually made the leap, I’ve never felt more motivated or inspired in my life!

This new space is a personal studio and community clay resource. It serves as the new clay-kit home base; it’s a larger space for me to create my own work in; and I’ll be able to offer access to tools like the slab roller, extruder, and wheel, as well as a few different firing options.

The idea is to offer a little something for everybody, no membership needed. Picture a salon business model where you can set an appointment and drop in for services. If you’re a dabbler in clay, I’d recommend the clay kits. The cost of the firing and glazing is included in the price per pound. It’s an easy, one-stop shop for making clay creations and doesn’t require any additional knowledge about clay bodies or glazes. 

4 Cameron stands in front of the new storefront of Cry Baby Clay pottery studio one year after offering her first clay kit from her front porch. Photo: Zoe Prinds-Flash.

For someone who is making a lot of work, I’d suggest they buy their own approved clay body and glazes and join in on a community firing, or rent out half of a kiln or a full kiln. The clay kits are great for smaller quantities, but they’re not necessarily economical for the potter looking to create larger-scale work or make and fire 50 mugs. I’m aware of that, and I want to be accommodating to those firing needs as well. 

To expand access even further, I have launched an initiative called “Clay it Forward” where people can purchase a clay kit for a neighbor. So long as my doors are open to the public, I love the idea of having a system where people who have extra money to spend can sponsor clay kits for others to receive at no cost in order to expand access to creative experiences. 

There are a lot of opportunities for adapting my business as I see new needs arise, and I’m excited to see where the next year takes me. For somebody who was once terrified of being a full-time potter, the combination of selling my own work and firing other people’s work has been a total game changer! I would encourage potters with a similar set up to look into the feasibility of offering clay kits to their local community. It has been amazing to connect with people from all different clay backgrounds and be trusted with their artwork, all while maintaining a sustainable and feel-good local business.

the author Katie Cameron creates under the moniker cry baby clay. She is a Minneapolis, Minnesota, based ceramic artist with a lot of feelings. To learn more, visit