Twenty years ago, when Paige O’Leary opened the precursor of Cottage Pottery at the Edgewater building in Charlevoix, pottery painting was a “hot trend.” It still is from all indications. O’Leary, ever the entrepreneur, has a new shop today on Park Avenue in Charlevoix and has generated the art of pottery painting into a steady business.
“My mother and mother-in-law were artists and today my girls are as well,” said O’Leary. One of her daughters, Madison, a senior at Charlevoix High School, is a resident art assistant for her mom, having inherited the passion and talent for the art in her own right. Madison supervises children’s parties, art classes and projects when her busy schedule allows.
“As for me, I was so busy playing basketball and volleyball at Hillsdale College while earning a B.A. and a degree in marketing, I didn’t know I was artistic until after college,” O’Leary said. She took the route of marketing and graphic design as a career, and after selling the original Cottage Pottery business soon after her babies came along, started her own marketing and graphic design business, Pages Unlimited, which catered exclusively to Realtors. She did this for 15 years as an “at home” business while raising her family together with her supportive husband, Dennis. Acquiring a real estate license along the way, she found that occasionally her real estate clients would ask her to “sub” for showings when they were unable to make them.
A good friend, Kathy Campbell, a Charlevoix real estate agent, found the perfect spot for O’Leary, when she knew her friend was serious about getting back into the pottery painting business.
“I finally checked it out,” she said, “and knew immediately that this was the space.”
O’Leary’s shop has the gallery ambiance she and her customers love: high ceilings with painted white brick walls, two design rooms furnished with white chalk-painted work tables, display cabinets holding unpainted pottery pieces to choose from and colorful samples of the finished designs either she, her daughters, or her customers have created. A photo wall in the back workroom serves as a display of clients’ creations as well as an inspiration for customers browsing for ideas.
Downstairs houses the kiln where O’Leary glazes and fires finished pieces.
“I touch your finished artwork four times from when you leave it until you pick it up,” she said. There is a 50 percent charge in addition to the price of the pottery piece chosen by the customer, for paint supplies, glazing and firing.
“All our materials are lead free and non-toxic. Finished pieces are dishwasher and microwave safe,” she said.
Cottage Pottery ships anywhere in the USA.
“I am an artist,” O’Leary states on Cottage Pottery’s web page. “I am passionate. I see things differently, colors, shapes, textures and how they go together beautifully ... I believe that everyone has an inner artist somewhere, if they just sit down long enough to find it!”
O’Leary says her purpose is “to bring families together to make memories ... just sitting around the table, working together to (create) their own beautiful work of art that’s unique to them and their story ... talking, painting and enjoying themselves and being together without their cell phones.”
O’Leary is a friendly, welcoming and energetic presence at Cottage Pottery. She is available to help pick out paint colors and stamps and stencils to aid in designs when requested.
“I enjoy people. I enjoy talking to people and I find that art is therapy. This is a great place to breathe and relax. A lot of clients agree that this experience is very peaceful and therapeutic.”
Although O’Leary’s pottery is supplied by a wholesaler, she eventually hopes to have two in- house pottery wheels available for her clients. Plans for future themes continue to pop into O’Leary’s head; A Harry Potter event is scheduled and advertised in a window easel at this writing. As the holiday season approaches, Cottage Pottery will have an assortment of Christmas ornaments which will be very popular to do for school groups and vintage Christmas trees.
“We have snowman bowls and Christmas themed mugs and I’d like to offer a nativity set if there’s interest,” she said.
Looking ahead to the long Northern Michigan winter, O’Leary has had a lot of requests from women who would like to get together, perhaps reminiscent of their younger years when they enjoyed ceramics classes.
“Cottage Pottery is a walk-in paint-your-own pottery and art studio,” O’Leary said. “We will be open all year round. You can check our Facebook Page or Instagram for hours, events and daily specials.”
Visit www.parkavenuepottery.com for the complete listing of offerings.
Written By Anne Kelly, Photo by Molly Hauxwell Currier