Cheryl and Rachelle in front of a small selection of their ceramics
Gray clouds loomed in the sky, making it a rainy day on the main street in Lower Lake. It was a relief to enter Small Town Ceramics studio as the welcoming heat eased my shivering. I looked around, seeing the greyish-blue walls framing the long small room. I set my belongings at one of the four tables along the center of the room, then sauntered around, looking through the shelves on both walls filled with unpainted ceramics.
Small Town Ceramics is a small, local business where people can paint pre-made ceramics and they do the firing. A person can come in, look around the shelves, find something that speaks to them, paint it then have it fired. I did that exact thing, still looking through the overwhelmingly many choices ranging from ceramic animals, bowls, platters, mugs, and more, waiting for an unpainted ceramic to speak to me. After some time searching, I found it: two little turtles.
When I sat back down at the table, the co-owner, Cheryl, welcomed us. “Good afternoon,” she said, her short brown hair framing her face and brown eyes. I noticed that over her blueish-grey shirt hung a painted ceramic dragonfly necklace. She set a tray on our table with numbered paint examples. After some time, I finally decided on the colors I wanted and began painting.
For twelve years, Cheryl and her daughter Rachelle have owned Small Town Ceramics. Rachelle gave me some brushes and the paint colors I asked for: her brown eyes matched her brown hair pulled in a bun. Under her apron, she wore a grey long-sleeve shirt with pink flowers. Cheryl told us about how they got the inspiration to start this business from the trips they would make to Eureka, visiting her grandchildren at a kid’s horse rodeo. After the rodeo, they would go to a store that did ceramics, and they thought it would be great if lake county had something like that.
“It hasn’t become a job yet,” Cheryl said, telling stories about kindergarteners who will come in and paint.
Cheryl and Rachelle had had it rough during Covid, just like so many other businesses. But they managed to stay open. During the months of quarantine, they did some online work. “Even during Covid, customers could do paint to-go bags. And during that time, we put in new floors and shelves. We also opened up retail at the front of the store so that we could open sooner.” Cheryl explained that she did it all through Facebook, where customers would order their ceramics and paint, then they would pick it up and do it at home.
In addition, Cheryl and Rachelle help in the education system. They make 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 public in general. People can follow them on Facebook and stay updated on it. Though, for those who are interested, hurry! They only have so much space and fill up fast.
“We seldom ever have no customers,” Cheryl said, “We don’t bother advertising; it’s all word of mouth for us.”
One great thing about Small Town Ceramics is the price. They don’t charge you for how much paint you use; all customers have to pay for is the ceramic itself. The price varies in size, of course, but they even fire it in the kiln for free. People can come in, paint what they choose, and pick it up after being in the kiln, which they do on Saturdays. They have hundreds of molds. 30% of their ceramics are from their molds, so there are plenty of choices. Customers can do something big and grand, or do what I did and choose something small and cute. Either way, they have plenty of great designs. They also have stencils for those like me who want perfect lines. So, if someone’s ever in the mood for some ceramics and painting or needs a fun gift for someone, they know where to go.
As my mother said, “This is something that could easily become an addiction,” I would have to agree. I had so much fun painting that I kept forgetting to take notes for writing this article.
Small Town Ceramics
16189 Main St, Lower Lake, CA 95457
Hours: 11-5, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday