Getting Spun in Tacoma: An Introduction to Hilltop’s DIY Pottery Studio
Spun is helping Tacoma get dirty…and creative! If you aren’t paying attention, you might just miss it. Unimposing and unassuming, Spun is nestled between a vacant lot and an old brick building on MLK in Hilltop. Once a violence stricken district, Hilltop is transforming into an artist oasis. Small business owners are aiming to shift the image and lift the spirits of the area’s residents through art and entrepreneurship.
Spun is a pottery studio and brainchild of local artists Jennifer English and April Sanders where the novice to experienced ceramicist can create, glaze, and fire (in the famous Val Kilner) their own plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and sculptures. The two met in Auburn, Washington during their high school years and bonded in their many art classes. With clay arts as their passion, it was only natural that 20 years later, they would open a pottery studio. The idea for Spun came to fruition over cocktails in a backyard. The only problem? Money. That is where Spaceworks Tacoma came in. Spaceworks is a joint initiative with Tacoma Chamber of Commerce involved in revitalizing our pretty, gritty city.
Spun contacted Spaceworks, applied formally, and was selected to present their business plan to the board and the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce. While extremely nervous and anxious for this unique opportunity, they were accepted (even with the fly of April’s pants down the entire presentation!) Spaceworks coordinated business classes for Spun and shortly after, in 2014, they were able to open their doors to the public.
No money has ever been spent on advertising for Spun. Instead, they immersed themselves in the community. Appearing at local events such as the Hilltop Street Fair. With business intensifying, Jennifer and April ran into a snag. Their building was being sold. They had started to feel at home and make a name for themselves on MLK and wanted to continue supporting the Hilltop district. Luckily, they managed to find a building just a few blocks from their original location. With hard work and patience by the Spun crew and great friends, they were able to re-open shortly after the move.
Spun has options for everyone and offers classes at an affordable rate. For $30, you can “Sit N Spin”. Instructions in creating one piece are provided by the crew, including all supplies and firing your finished product. If you have an artistic child between the ages of 2 and 13 years, the “Kid Spin” session is for you. For $35 per student ($20 for each additional sibling), your budding artist will have 1 hour to learn how to use the wheel to not only create a masterpiece, but improve their sensory and cognitive development. A more in-depth option is the “Give It A Spin” class. Instructions in creating two pieces are provided and following the drying period, you are offered 1 hour of glazing before the final firing. There are also options for groups, such as, “Elbows Deep Group Spin”. For this 3 hour class, your clique will be offered beer or wine, light snacks, and learn one piece on the wheel followed by free forming as much as you’d like for the remaining time. For the passionate ceramicist wannabe, they have a 6 week course for $250 dollars with a payment plan, if needed, and for the experienced clay thrower, a $10 per hour free spin and glazing option.
Jennifer and April like to keep their classes small to maintain their ability to truly teach each person and ignite the creative spirit. Their passion for art and teaching can be felt as they speak of their students, past and present. One student, soon to be their next intern, sculpts and forms intricate dragons from the wet, gray blobs placed in front of him. Another now runs her own business teaching others the magic of the wheel after taking their 6 week course. An incredible feat, as she had never attempted ceramics before her time in the Spun studio.
Today, Spun is a thriving Tacoma business, quickly turning into a staple of our community. When asked about their biggest artistic influence, “As cheesy as it sounds, we are”, replies April. “We bookend each other.” Great business partners and even better friends, they continue to inspire each other and their students on a level most seek their entire lives.