By Ingrid Schnader
For the first time ever, you can shop Susan Gordon’s pottery and jewelry in a brick-and-mortar storefront.
More than 200 people visited the store’s grand opening Friday at 1910 28th Ave. S. in Homewood to shop the colorful and gold-trimmed designs.
In sharp contrast to the perfect-white walls and clean atmosphere at the new storefront, Gordon said her business had “humble beginnings.” She decided back in 2013 that she was going to quit her jobs directing an arts council and teaching pottery on the side. She wanted to pursue pottery full time.
“I was in my basement over in an apartment in Homewood doing all this,” she said. “It was terrible, honestly. We didn’t have any heat or air. There were crickets everywhere, and the basement would sometimes flood. It was my piece of heaven at the time, but it was pretty awful looking back on it.”
She and her team spent the next few years in a couple of different makerspaces, but these venues didn’t have heating or air. Sometimes the clay would freeze overnight, and they would have to throw out thousands of pounds of clay.
Gordon knew she wanted to move into a different space, so every day after dropping her children off at school, she would drive around Homewood doing what she called “prayer driving.”
“I would be like, ‘Where am I supposed to be? I feel like I’m supposed to be in Homewood. I feel like there’s a place for me. I just feel like I need to find it,’” she said.
“I was driving through Homewood, and I had passed this place. And I think that they had put that sign out maybe a couple of days before. It was just a vinyl banner that they threw over the fence, and I cannot believe I even saw it.”
She called her agent and said she wanted to see it as soon as possible.
“I wanted this space to be an inspiring place to come to work,” she said. “I wanted to be inspired. I wanted my people to be inspired. I wanted them to be comfortable and not freezing cold or hot.”
One of Gordon’s favorite elements in the new storefront are the floor-to-ceiling windows that peek into the artists’ workspaces. Guests can look through the windows to watch the employees hard at work, and Gordon said she plans to occasionally open up the back for public tours.
“Making to me is the most interesting part of the process, because it’s kind of a miracle that you can take a squishy wad of clay here and make it into a sculpture, a nativity, a vase or a bowl,” she said.
The first step in the process is making, which can be by throwing the clay on a wheel or using a pattern or a bowl to shape the clay.
The next step is the smoothing process. The artist will take a sponge to the clay to get rid of all of the rough edges or scratches.
It takes a couple of days for the clay to dry – especially if the weather outside is wet – and then the clay is ready to get fired in the kiln.
“We have names for all of our kilns,” Gordon said, laughing. “It just makes it easier to keep track of them, honestly.”
Skeeter is Gordon’s “old faithful” kiln and is one of the first kilns she ever bought. The biggest kiln is named Elvis, because “he’s the king.” Layla and Lilo are two medium-sized kilns, and Buttercup is the smallest one.
“The art of making clay – it has its own personality, it reacts to its own environment,” she said. “It’s not cut and dry at all.”
Gordon said the clay itself is inspiring, but she also gets inspiration just by being a Southern mom, having a home and thinking about practical things she wants for herself.
“What do I want to give?” she said she asks herself. “What do I want to have in my kitchen? What do I want to use? What do I need?”
Her love for clothes, fashion and style led her to start selling jewelry and dropping “pottery” from her company’s name. She began selling just initial charms to friends and family, then moved to Pepper Place. Now, she has multiple collections of ceramic necklaces and earrings.
“We just are happy to be here in our storefront, and we look forward to hosting more events in the future – not just pottery events or sales, but having some cool and creative workshops here,” she said. “And we’re opening up our retail space so people can have small gatherings here and so we have a lot of things in the works that we’re excited about.”