Published Feb 10, 2016
We haven’t posted a pottery studio visit in a while, so when I saw the lovely former one-room-schoolhouse studio of Patricia Griffin in the Ceramics Monthly archive, I had to share.
In this post, Patricia explains how she was able to rent this historical building from the local Lion’s Club after she outgrew her makeshift studio in a backyard shed. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor
P.S. Check out the full article, in the February 2016 issue of Ceramics Monthly, to learn more about Patricia Griffin’s weekend workshops in addition to her studio work schedule and her personal marketing strategies.
I work and greet visitors in my studio, a converted one-room schoolhouse on Main Street in Cambria, a scenic village on the central coast of California.
I rent the building from the Lions Club of Cambria and it’s truly seen as a community asset. I am very grateful to be working out of this building and love sharing its character and history with visitors.
Before I began leasing the space six years ago, it was a co-op art gallery for the local art association for more than three decades. They had created faux walls in front of the existing walls. These gallery walls enabled them to hang their paintings, continually moving them around without putting nails in the historical building. I have kept those in place—a perfect way to create a studio space where I didn’t have to worry about damaging the walls.The front of the building is now a showroom/gallery area for my own work, and my studio is the other 70% of the space. Before I moved in, the Lions Club re-wired an outbuilding for my kilns. Previously, my kilns were in the same building as my workspace, so this was a big improvement.
The building has a little stage area at the very back (where the teacher’s desk would have been when it was a schoolhouse). Today, I use that area for my wheel throwing. I have a stand-up wheel and a traditional sit-down wheel that I use for trimming or combining multiple pieces. On this same level are my pug mill, an extruder, and a closet with clay and glaze storage. To the side by an exit door is a small bathroom, in which I added a big industrial sink.
The rest of the studio space is divided between a handbuilding table next to my slab roller and a long counter where I do most of my decoration. In reality, though, I’m always moving things around. It’s probably not the most efficient system, but I’ve found that alternating sitting/standing and working at various heights is helpful in protecting my back.
As my studio income has grown, I’ve tried to invest back into the business by upgrading equipment or processes. Several years ago I purchased a pug mill. And this year I’m installing a new vent system in my kiln room to better exhaust fumes and heat.The big advantage of having my studio on the main street is the ongoing flow of traffic in through the doors. It’s also the main disadvantage when I’m trying to get work finished. On a complicated glaze day, it’s not uncommon for me to close the doors to help stay focused on the work at hand.
Paying DuesWhen I wandered into my first clay class 17 years ago, I was the busy owner of a regional marketing and design firm in central California. I was seeking a little fun and creative exploration not tied to the needs of clients.
What began as a hobby opened up a whole new world and I’ve been exploring its various paths ever since. After exhausting the local clay scene, I took workshops at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Sierra Nevada College, and Mendocino Art Center and sought out mentors and teachers. For about seven years, I studied intensely, using my income from the marketing and design business to pay bills while I learned everything I could about clay. I set up a makeshift studio in a backyard shed, and spent every spare minute there.
I was fortunate to have the support and encouragement of my husband. We’ve always had our own separate businesses and shared household duties and parenting. Our son grew up in that environment, and spent many evenings doing homework in the pottery studio.