Home-based pottery business gets even more creative amid pandemic – News – seacoastonline.com

YORK, Maine — Like other local businesses, Ocean Fire Pottery shut its doors when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area. When the time came to reopen, owner Amy Clark was leery about letting the public in again because her business is actually in her home.

When visitors walk in the door to the gallery, they are also walking into Clark’s studio, where she spends her days and nights making pottery. They could also turn to the right and step directly into her kitchen — in the middle of a pandemic.

“Back in June, with all of the uncertainty surrounding COVID, I just wasn’t comfortable bringing so many people into my house and my workspace,” Clark said. “I had to find a solution that would feel welcoming and safe, both for me and for my customers.”

Clark pulled out a tent, a can of paint and some tables, and she created an open-air gallery in front of her house. Her handmade platters hang on the exterior walls of the house, and planters hang on hooks with flowers in them. She even brought her pottery wheel outside, so she can work out there and passersby can see the pieces as she makes them.

“The feedback I’m getting is wonderful,” said Clark. And the shop is busier than ever. Tourists are stopping to see what’s going on, and even locals who have been driving by for years are pulling over and introducing themselves, she said.

“We’re getting used to wearing masks and sanitizing, but there’s still a small level of anxiety involved in shopping,” she said. “I wanted this to be open and low-stress.”

A sign asks visitors to use the provided hand sanitizer or gloves before touching the pottery, and everyone wears masks. There’s typically just one or two people there at a time, so it’s never crowded, which helps people feel comfortable, Clark said. “Everyone’s been so nice, and respectful,” she added.

Clark said at least 35{3fd454b43fbfd7aa8a551fa339f02ecfdee40c34b6b5df10527629ca3647b822} of her revenue each year comes from craft shows, all of which have been canceled, so she has a lot of ground to make up with this modified format.

The crisis has inspired creative partnerships with local artists and businesses dealing with COVID-19 fallout, too. An active member of Yoga on York, Clark was eager to help when the studio had to stop holding in-person classes, and she offered to host some in her back yard, behind the shop. The classes have continued even after the yoga studio opened again.

Soon, local artists who have also been knocked out of the craft-fair circuit will be taking turns selling their wares at the space Clark has created, she said.

Clark plans to keep the open-air gallery going well into the fall, until the weather finally drives her inside. Being indoors during the holiday season won’t be ideal for business, so she anticipates a slower winter because of that. Her biggest sale of the year, the Holiday Extravaganza held in her studio, is up in the air.

“It’s been challenging navigating the pandemic, but I’ve been lucky so far,” Clark said. “We’ve all had to approach business in a new way, and I hope to bring some of the lessons I’ve learned and that spirit of ingenuity into the future.”

For more information, call 207-361-3131 or visit oceanfirepottery.com.

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