It takes a special perspective on life to venture into business ownership. It takes an even more unique quality of courage to venture into the world of the creative arts and make a living at it.
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Yet, this is something that G.F. and Penny Cloud of Clouds Pottery in Folsom have managed to do. Since 1977 this unique pottery business has specialized in handcrafted porcelain items of high quality and unique design.
The initial secret to the success of the business was simply to follow the dream.
“I was majoring in history at Sacramento State,” G.F. said. “I needed a class in the arts in order to graduate. Ruth Ripon was my teacher in ceramics, and that’s where I got my start. I discovered that I liked pottery and working with my hands. I started the Earthworks in downtown Sacramento, around 1970. I learned a lot with that business.”
Meanwhile, G.F. met and married the former Penny Stallings, who lived next door to his sister. The two started up their Rattlesnake Bar Studio, making pottery together. Events in 1977 caused the couple, who reside in Shingle Springs, to look for a location closer to their developing customer base.
“You have to be where there are people,” Penny said.
The couple found a location on Sutter Street and opened shop. A few years later, the opportunity to purchase a steel building just down the hill presented itself. G.F. and Penny bought the building, put concrete siding on it that transformed the building into a charming red barn and moved their studio there. For several years, the building at 608½ Sutter St. was a workshop.
Master artisans in their own right, the Clouds assembled a team of craftspeople who have created a body of work that has gained not just a local, but a national and international reputation.
The items crafted by the team at Clouds Pottery are all handcrafted from porcelain clay. The glazes are all created in the studio. Teapots, mugs, bowls, dishes, ceramic tiles, sinks and much more are available at the store.
“We have over 150 items in our repertoire,” G.F. said. “Over 60 patterns and glaze styles. We never make something the same way twice. Each item is unique.”
“We were able to hire some really good people,” he said. “Teamwork is a part of the secret.”
“Mary Cargile has a master’s degree from Sacramento State,” Penny said. “She throws the forms and creates glazes. She does so much. She makes teapots, pitchers, bowls. She has complete creative freedom.”
Artist Karen Adler throws pottery and creates many of the unique forms Clouds Pottery is known for. Penny and artist Linda Allison are the painters.
Two years ago, the Clouds decided to sell the original building on Sutter Street and relocated the shop in the workshop building. The effect was a spacious showcase for the unique items crafted by the Clouds artisans.
The business has grown over the years. In fact, 60 percent of the business comes from outside the local area – a tribute to the early years when the Clouds attended harvest festivals and developed a customer base and the public discovered the quality, handcrafted items.
As items crafted in the United States are becoming increasingly difficult to find, customers are coming to Clouds Pottery with the deliberate intent to purchase gifts made in this country.
“We had a gentleman in this afternoon who was going to attend a gift exchange party in El Dorado Hills,” G.F. said. “He told us that the invitation specifically said, ‘Please bring a gift to exchange that is ‘Made in America.’”
The final secret to success at Clouds Pottery is to enjoy the craft and to always strive to get better and more efficient. It keeps the creative edge alive as one “goes with the flow” of economies that fluctuate over the decades.
“It’s all handmade with lots of love,” said Penny. “And teamwork – right here in Folsom.”
Clouds Pottery is located at 608 ½ Sutter St. in Folsom’s historical district.