By Kaitlin Candelaria
A couple of large donations ago, the King’s Home found itself with a surplus of pottery, a top-of-the-line kiln and a vacant building. Their response was to build the Prodigal Pottery program.
Formerly known as King’s Ranch and Hannah Homes, the King’s Home serves at-risk women, children and youth.
“For years, they have been trying to figure out a way to provide jobs for the women that are in our homeless shelter within King’s Home,” said Jamie Ankenbrandt, director of the pottery program. “They’ve been praying through and dreaming up ways that this could happen and then this fell in our laps.”
Ankenbrandt, an Auburn University graduate and Homewood resident, said the challenge for her was coming up with a way to transform making and decorating pottery into full-time jobs for the women she was working with, especially when many of them had no artistic experience.
“I had to figure out things that anybody could learn and do well,” Ankenbrandt said. “For these women it’s an awesome opportunity. It’s a safe and therapeutic environment where they can work. Ninety-five percent of our residents have experienced some sort of awful abuse in their lives, so they’re all dealing with something really difficult and the majority of them don’t have high school or college degrees.”
Ankenbrandt said one of the most important parts of the program is teaching the women work and social skills.
“This is a good opportunity for them to learn job skills like how to have a conversation with your boss in a respectful but honest way or relationships within the work place,” Ankenbrandt said. “Confrontation for them is a daily thing, so working through that sort of stuff with them is central to the program.”
The women hosted their first holiday pop-up pottery show and sale last November at Gallery 1930 in Mountain Brook and were surprised with the success.
“It was way more successful than we ever could have imagined,” Ankenbrandt said. “From there it kind of kicked off this selling of the pottery that we didn’t have any anticipation for. We’ve kind of been running behind a moving train, it feels like.”
Ankenbrandt said that, at first, many of the women were reluctant to rub elbows with people from the Over the Mountain areas.
“After a few months of doing pottery and being proud of the things they were making, they wouldn’t have missed it,” Ankenbrandt. “For these women and the youth who have such low self-esteem because of the things they’ve dealt with in their lives, it’s transformative.”
This year, the group will be hosting its second holiday pop-up shop at Scene, a new art gallery at Pepper Place, Nov. 11-12. On Nov. 11, guests are invited from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. with wine and cheese from 5 p.m. on. On Nov. 12, hours will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from the pottery sales go back into the program. The women are not only paid hourly, but also receive a 10 percent commission from each sale.
Prodigal Pottery also is available for purchase at The Abbey and Alabama Goods or online at the Prodigal Pottery Etsy store. For more information, visit www.kingshome.com.