(Reprinted with permission by author. Original article appeared in Jan/Feb 2006 SACA
If you have ever traveled along coastal Oregon you may have had the good
fortune to discover the little Port of Charleston located on the Cape Arago HWY just west of Coos Bay. One can purchase fresh
fish, dine on crab, clams, and sumptuous fish and chips. One can also browse in a charming little pottery shop run by three
talented clay artists, Pat Clark, Colleen Curto, and Cindy Meikel. Their shop is one of those success stories we all love to hear about!
The three women met at the Coquille Valley Art Association where Cindy was
teaching pottery. Colleen signed up for classes and persuaded Pat, her long time friend, to join her. The trio clicked and
a bond developed. After a year of making pottery at the Art Center, they bought kilns and wheels and started their studios
With all families saying, “NO MORE POTTERY PLEASE” it seemed
time to take the next step. Colleen came across a small building in Charleston; it had actually been the Post Office at one
time. The rent was reasonable so they moved into the small building (12 feet by 25 feet) the Thursday before Labor Day. Tables,
signs and make shift shelves went in on Friday. Much to their amazement they made their first months rent that weekend! See
dreams really do come true.
The name was originally going to be “The Charleston Pot Shop”
but the ladies decided that “Pottery by the Bay” was more politically correct! By Christmas they had developed
a local based business. People from the inland areas who came to go crabbing and claming discovered the quaint little shop
as well, and as the ladies said, “the rest is history.”
Three years later Pottery by the Bay has welcomed visitors from near and
far. Pottery has been shipped to all parts of the United States, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia.
They now have five kilns, four wheels and hundreds of glazes and clays.
Although Seventy five percent of their sales are from locals, each year
they try something new to lure in a variety of customers. To advertise personalized aprons are worn while working, and logo
“T” shirts are shown off around town. Pat passes out business cards every chance she gets; she even includes them
in her outgoing mail. Charleston, Oregon is written into the clay of every piece as another way to advertise. Through customer
suggestions French Butter Dishes, Apple Bakers and Pie Dishes have become best sellers. They are also involved in community
projects and charities, and the local merchant association. Cindy stated it perfectly, “When you’re small and
have a zero budget, you have to get creative, but isn’t that what potters do.”
There is more to this story than just creating a successful business. It
is about friendship and fulfilling dreams. Cindy stated it like this, “As life as a potter ebbs and flows, the three
of us support each other in both the ups and downs of everyday life: misfirings, leaky front door, the joy of a kiln load
with a perfect new glaze or changes in our family life. Pottery by the Bay has allowed us to grow as potters and the community
has supported us with advice and as customers”.
Each one is fulfilling a dream. Colleen had always dreamed about having
a little pottery shop and approaching 60 she decided it was time. Pat was dabbing in different crafts and, by joining Colleen,
found her niche. Cindy was able to leave the regimen of working for others and branch out on her own to exercise her creativity
and expand her horizon.
I have been visiting Pottery by the Bay for the past three summers. I find
Cindy, Colleen, and Pat to be an inspiration and wish them much success. If you are interested in learning more about these
ladies and their pottery, you can contact them via E-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on any of the following to learn more.