By Judith A. Ross | CNA Media Team
A well-designed, carefully crafted piece of pottery is a joy to hold – and behold. The perfect mug, for example, will not only comfortably contain your morning brew, it will serve as a small piece of art on your shelf.
Wil Labelle and Manya Wubbold of Side Door Ceramics Gallery aim to create household items that do just that.
The two opened the gallery, located at the corner of 30th Avenue and Alberta Street, in January. The 235-square-foot space is lined with shelves of useful objects made from stoneware or porcelain in colors ranging from blues and greens to creams etched in brown.
A pottery wheel, where Wil and Manya often work during business hours, sits behind the front counter.
Their offerings include – but are not limited to – cups, bowls, serving platters, teapots, candleholders, Chemex-shaped coffee makers, olive oil pourers and salt shakers.
All are designed and priced for everyday use. “Our prices range from $15 for cups, to $50 for bowls, and $70 to $90 for teapots and more complex projects,” Wil pointed out.
Hanging on one wall is his signature item, tall, narrow to-go mugs – each with a generously-sized handle and a cork plug on top.
“I started doing those because I wanted to change people’s perspective about how they embrace a piece of handmade pottery during the day,” he added. “This piece is meant to leave your safe zone, your castle, and go with you in your coach.”
Although Wil has spent the bulk of his career in the pottery business both as a teacher and maker, Manya came to the craft while teaching Spanish at the university level. Last month she was in North Carolina attending the John C. Campbell Folk School, where she took an intensive course in making large works in porcelain.
They met when Manya was Wil’s student at Georgies Ceramic and Clay Co. on Lombard Street. After a few years as Wil’s student, Manya invited him to share a studio on her property. Two years later, upon learning that the gallery space on Alberta was available, the two decided to go in together. They continue to make the bulk of their products at the private studio and view the gallery as a showroom for their work.
“We both saw this as an opportunity to take our work to the next level,” Wil explained. “It was a way for us to showcase functional pottery that is affordable. “There’s no greater accolade than someone saying, ‘I started using your salt shaker, and I love it.’”
Judith is a freelance writer, who relocated from Massachusetts to Portland in 2016.