Take a break from it all – The Bloom
Cheryl and Rachelle in front of a small selection of their ceramics
Gray clouds loomed in the sky, making it a rainy day on Main Street in Lower Lake. It was a relief to step into the Small Town Ceramics studio as the welcoming warmth eased my shivers. I looked around, seeing the grey-blue walls framing the long, small room. I set my things on one of the four tables in the center of the room, then wandered around, peering through the shelves at the two walls filled with unpainted ceramics.
Small Town Ceramics is a small local business where people can paint pre-made ceramics and do the firing. A person can walk in, look around the shelves, find something that speaks to them, paint it and then bake it. I did just that, while browsing through the multitude of choices ranging from ceramic animals, bowls, trays, mugs, etc., waiting for an unpainted ceramic to speak to me. After a while of searching, I found it: two small turtles.
When I sat back at the table, the co-owner, Cheryl, greeted us. “Hello,” she said, her short brown hair framing her face and brown eyes. I noticed that above his bluish-gray shirt hung a necklace of painted ceramic dragonflies. She placed a tray on our table with numbered painting examples. After a while I finally decided on the colors I wanted and started painting.
For twelve years, Cheryl and her daughter Rachelle have owned Small Town Ceramics. Rachelle gave me brushes and the paint colors I had requested: her brown eyes matched her brown hair pulled back into a bun. Under her apron, she wore a gray long-sleeved shirt with pink flowers. Cheryl told us how they got the inspiration to start this business from the trips they would take to Eureka, visiting her grandchildren at a children’s horse rodeo. After the rodeo, they would go to a store that made ceramics, and they thought it would be nice if Lake County had something like that.
“It hasn’t turned into a job yet,” Cheryl said, telling stories about the kindergartners who will come to paint.
Cheryl and Rachelle had struggled during Covid, like so many other businesses. But they managed to stay open. During the quarantine months, they did some work online. “Even during Covid, customers could paint take-out bags. And during this time, we installed new floors and shelves. We have also opened retail at the front of the store so we can open earlier. Cheryl explained that she does all of this through Facebook, where customers order their ceramics and paint, then pick them up and do it at home.
In addition, Cheryl and Rachelle help in the education system. They host field trips for children and art classes for teachers and educators through the Lake County Office of Education. But they also do private events for the general public. People can follow them on Facebook and keep up to date. But for those interested, hurry up! They have little space and fill up quickly.
“We rarely ever have any customers,” Cheryl said, “we don’t care about publicity; it’s word of mouth for us.
A great thing about Small Town Ceramics is the price. They don’t charge you for the amount of paint you use; all customers have to pay for is the ceramic itself. The price varies in size, of course, but they even bake it in the oven for free. People can come in, paint whatever they want and pick it up after it’s been in the oven, which they do on Saturdays. They have hundreds of molds. 30% of their ceramics come from their moulds, so there is plenty to choose from. Customers can do something big and big, or do what I did and choose something small and cute. Either way, they have a lot of great designs. They also have stencils for those like me who want perfect lines. So if anyone ever has a craving for ceramics and painting or needs a fun gift for someone, they know where to go.
As my mother said, “It’s something that could easily become addictive”, I have to agree. I had so much fun painting that I forgot to take notes to write this article.
small town ceramics
16189 Main St., Lower Lake, CA 95457
Hours: 11-5, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday