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Lifelong ceramic artist and West Philly native Stefani Threet just realized a dream by opening a storefront in her neighborhood. In her estimation, Ceramic Concept will be one of the only Black-owned pottery shops in the city.
Threet, who began potting at 15, first founded Threet Ceramics as a mobile operation, selling her creations at flea markets and craft shows, as well as wholesale. Having her own store is something she’s been imagining since she was 19, she said.
She didn’t quite envision doing it in the middle of a coronavirus surge.
“I had sort of put this on hold because of the pandemic,” said the 41-year-old Cedar Park resident. “But then the right opportunity presented itself.”
A friend was moving out of the space at 5015 Baltimore Ave., just up the block from Dock Street Brewing and a few doors down from Booker’s Restaurant. So Threet jumped into action, raising $19k on GoFundMe to get started.
A few months later, things were ready to go. There’s an entire wall of handmade mugs, next to intricate vases, plates and plant holders, plus ceramic necklaces and incense holders. They’re made by Threet as well as a handful of other artists — about three-quarters of them people of color and women, she estimated. Many products were made locally, others across the country and a few by international potters.
Ceramic Concept’s grand opening will last through the next week. To keep people safe and comply with the city’s forthcoming COVID restrictions, visitors will space themselves out by reserving time slots to visit. (You can also just show up and wait for an opening.)
Above all, Threet’s goal is to inspire future Black ceramic artists and potters, acting as the role model she never had while growing up.
“Growing up in the Black community, most people saw what I did as not being a job. It was a hobby at best,” she said.
Threet got into ceramics as a student at Overbrook High School, where she finished required credits early. To fill her time, she started taking art classes at St. Joe’s University via a partnership between the two schools.
She earned a degree from renowned clay school Alfred University, and worked in studios in Seattle and Oaxaca, Mexico. She taught classes for orgs like Mural Arts, and founded her brand.
To make a living from her own pottery line, she said, took 12 to 14 hours in the studio every day. Curating the store won’t be as heavy a lift. Threet’s hoping once it gets going, the shop will help her slow down a bit, and pay attention to her personal life.
Some of the artists on display at the West Philly shop will include:
- Rider Ceramics, whose studio is located at the Bok
- Christian Alexander Morris from Pittsburgh
- Melted Porcelain from Seattle
It all fits with her underlying goal: to encourage future Black potters.
“It’s really important to break down those stereotypes and let people know that careers exist outside the box of basic jobs,” Threet said. “”I feel like [this]is the path I was always meant to be on.”