Shasta Clayworks – Renee Wendy Helps Families Turn ‘Mud’ Into Memories

Renee Wendy’s romance with pottery began with chemistry. “The Merrill Pottery Co-Op at UC Santa Cruz studio needed someone who could mix glazes,” she recalls, “and I’m a chemist, so I offered to make glazes and manage the studio in exchange for a membership.” Such proximity to pottery could only lead Renee to take up the craft herself.

In 2011, tired of the hustle and bustle of big-city living, Renee “drove north on I-5, stopped in Mt. Shasta and never left.” Soon after moving, she began to miss the artistic inspiration of a community art studio. Surely, she thought, an arena for creative collaboration would only add to the charm of her new abode. Her entrepreneurial spirit rose to the challenge, and in May 2015 Renee opened Shasta Clayworks.

Shasta Clayworks acts as a studio for skilled potters, a shop for pottery collectors and a classroom for the curious. In the basic beginner class students learn pinch-pot technique; hand-kneading a chunk of clay into a cup-and-saucer set, a pair of bowls or a “pinch-pot monster” that can serve as a jewelry holder or soap dish.  Classes have room for two to five students, last two hours and start at $36 a person and are customized to fit any schedule. “Morning, night, weekends – you name it,” says Renee. “If you have between two and five people already, I’ll schedule a class that fits your agendas. If you don’t already have a group, I’ll hook you up with new friends.” For those with the know-how but not the space for ceramics, a membership to Shasta Clayworks earns them a key to the building, giving them unlimited access to the tools and equipment whenever they wish.

This uniquely open, flexible business style makes Shasta Clayworks an ideal venue for busy family schedules, allowing children, parents, grandparents and friends to all work on projects side-by-side. Jessica Bowman, vice president of Mt. Shasta Women in Business, applauds Renee’s collaborative structure which she attests “helps participants enter comfortably at their skill level and be successful.” Whenever her mother and her nieces visit, Jessica brings them to the studio. “It is not always easy to find an activity that works well for everyone in the age span that we have in our family,” Jessica says, “but my nieces love attending classes under Renee’s expert instruction and always ask if they can do it the next time they visit. Even my mom, who doesn’t consider herself artistic, really enjoys the activities.”  Jessica has taken several classes herself, and her husband has recently begun the wheel throwing class.

The diversity of activities and schedules makes Shasta Clayworks an asset to the immediate community and also to passersby. “This is a great place for people with kids to stop when driving through Mt. Shasta,” Renee says. “Spend 15 minutes or take two hours out of your day to make your vacation all the more special – make your own souvenir!” Stosh and Talula, a father-daughter duo, make the studio a regular holiday stop to paint seasonal ornaments; hearts for Valentine’s Day, eggs for Easter, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day and more. Renee describes painting ornaments as a quick “donation-based art” costing whatever artists want to pay. 

As a member of Mt. Shasta Women in Business, Renee praises the “tireless work” of the Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce that helps make small businesses successful. She suggests other business owners take advantage of the services the chamber offers. She also encourages small business owners to support one another. Renee networks through Mt. Shasta’s Women in Business. “There are ups and downs of owning a small business for sure,” Renee says. “In order to have successful businesses in small towns like Mt. Shasta, people need to come and use each other’s services.”

Pack up the kids and head to Shasta Clayworks for a creative play date, turning mud into memories. 

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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