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Women and Girls: The Clay Collective NWO, a one-stop-shop for pottery in Thunder Bay

The Clay Collective NWO opened its retail space in Goods & Co. Market last year.

THUNDER BAY -- Local potter Sara Peters has been making pottery for five or six years. Like most other pottery artists in the region, she sold her work through various retail stores, attended Craft Revival, and created a website where people could browse her wares and shop.

When Maelyn Hurley announced her plans for opening Goods & Co. Market in the former Eaton’s building, Peters was immediately interested.

“Pottery is a very time-consuming form of art,” Peters says. “Unlike knitting or sewing or even painting, once you’re doing it, you can’t stop. It’s hard for a lot of us to actually go out and sell our work on a consistent basis, while also making our work.”

Most of the potters in the city also juggle a job and family life in addition to pottery. Peters is a nurse practitioner, and having a storefront that is open five days a week seemed impossible, until she got together with co-founders Crystal Sohlman of P0Ts2G0, and Melesa Hane of the clay Pottery. The three started The Clay Collective NWO, which opened in November last year in Goods & Co. Market.

In addition to the three founders, the collective currently has eight more artists: Lisa Makela of The Calm Creative, Peyton Harris of Blooming Tulip Ceramics, Karen Long of Phire Pottery, Donna Stecky, Kasia Piech of Three Legged Girl, May Naimian of May’s Clays, Brenda Delmas of Be Natural Pottery, and Denise Smith.

As a one-stop-shop, the store sells a wide range of items, from mugs and plates to decorative items and jewelry. The artists’ styles range from the rustic to the whimsical, making The Clay Collective NWO the perfect place to shop for a gift.

Instead of hiring someone to sell the pottery, all of the members take turns at the shop. For customers, that means there is always a potter on site, and for the members of the collective, it means they don’t have to pay wages or commission, they share the rent, and one of their own is always at the store.

It has just been over half a year since the Clay Collective NWO opened, but the artists are very satisfied with their location in the Goods & Co. Market.

“We’re pretty happy with the direction we’re taking,” says Peters. “We would still like to get a few more people in - more artists under one roof.” While the retail space isn’t huge, there is room for four or five more potters, she says, and it would be nice to offer shoppers an even wider variety of works to choose from. Interested potters can reach out to the collective on social media, or come by the store to meet a member in person.

The Clay Collective NWO has participated in a couple of fundraisers so far, selling holiday ornaments for the Dilico Christmas Wish Campaign and auctioning vases for the Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre. Peters hopes the group can do more fundraisers and community events in the future: “It’s quite rewarding when it’s done,” she says.

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