Small businesses are the backbone of Greenpoint, the crown jewels in a neighborhood rich with cultural, artistic, and culinary offerings. Clay Space is one such gem, and, like many of our local shops, the storefront has been on quite the journey these past two years. And while all of our neighboring small businesses have been tested by this ongoing pandemic, Clay Space has weathered that while also undertaking a massive (and highly fruitful) move.
In May, Clay Space relocated to its new address at 275 Calyer Street. It may seem taxing to move during a pandemic, but as founder and director Janine Sopp shared, the new building was built with some prescient design elements, including the ability to function with doors and windows open, inviting in fresh air and making visitors feel safe and welcome.
A big move has not hindered Clay Space’s goals: they are uplifting ceramicists of color, offering a plethora of classes for folks of all ages, and dreaming up a collaboration with Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop. (We’re absolutely here for that tasty teamwork!) Below, we catch up with Janine, learn about the move, and see what Clay Space has planned for the new year.
Greenpointers: You moved in May of last year, is that correct?
Janine Sopp: Yes! We moved into our lovely space in May. The new space is at 275 Calyer Street, where Diamond meets Calyer. Our community had previously been headquartered at the end of Manhattan Avenue, but we built a state of the art facility and perfectly outfitted it for our community. We opened the space up to members in May of 2021. We launched classes for all levels of artists in September 2021.
Can you discuss what prompted the move, and how the new space has been treating you?
Clay Space is a Greenpoint institution. We’d been at our previous space for 15 years, which helped launch careers, side businesses, hobbies, and artistic pursuits for so many, and we’re so proud of that. We’ve always wanted to provide more for our members: more space, better facilities, and the opportunity to provide education and classes. We moved because our former landlord was not aligned with our mission. But it’s truly for the best: The new space is amazing! Easily accessible to transportation and a short walk from neighboring schools, the move is the best thing that’s ever happened to us.
The pandemic has been difficult for all of our small businesses. How has it been weathering these ups and downs?
It’s been tough to navigate but we’re a community institution, and we’re committed to serving our community. We were prescient in our design: we’re able to do a lot of work with doors and windows open, allowing us to deliver a venue where people could pursue something creative that was outside of their apartments. We are all starved for it. We require N95 masks and limit the numbers to avoid density and have vaccination requirements. We have sign-ups and sign-ins to manage tracing and crowds. We’re also very nimble and will meet what the evolving situation requires.
You all offer so much at Clay Space — brag a little bit! What are some of your favorite initiatives?
We continue to flourish as a growing membership studio, offering a wide variety of membership levels. Our model allows makers to grow their businesses and expand their goals. Now we are bringing the joy of ceramics during these trying times to new people. Adult classes are taking off. Intro to Ceramics is unique, giving beginners a thorough exploration from handbuilding to wheel throwing. Our new Wheel Throwing For All is a mixed-level class that meets each student at the skill level they are at. Our Clay Play after school program is such a thoughtful hands-on program parents and kids love.
Anything exciting you are looking forward to in 2022?
We’re truly committed to the idea of community, and want to expand it. We’re launching a residency program for ceramicists of color, developing more classes in order to bring the clay experience to more children, and planning an official opening when it’s safe to do so. We’re expanding our offering to include private lessons, parties, and try-nights (Valentine’s Day date night!). We’re working to deliver more workshops to our members and showcasing member highlights every month. We’ll also be expanding our community by collaborating with other local businesses and organizations for shows and workshops. Our plate is full, pun intended.
What are some of the most popular pieces people like to make while creating in your space?
Objects that have both a utility and an expression of the self are what people are creating: lots of mugs, incense burners, flower pots, planters, and moon jars are some of what’s coming out of the kiln. We’re seeing exciting glaze combos and exploring the idea of miniatures. There’s Donut themed-work. My own fantasy is a collaboration with Greenpoint institution Peter Pan. What I love about our community is the extraordinary, unique, and limitless work being made. I’m blown away every time I walk across the room. Whatever the mind can conceive is being made in clay at Clay Space!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Having once been a fairly quiet clay studio in Brooklyn, we’ve built a strong network of amazing members who passed through Clay Space or continued on to our new location. Our community is at the heart of who we are and we’re incredibly grateful. We’re committed to expanding this community to the greater North Brooklyn area and bringing the healing power of clay to a larger audience. We invite our neighbors in to see what’s happening here, feel the good vibes, and join the fun. We’re especially excited to bring children in and look forward to building relationships with our Greenpoint neighbors.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our journey and vision. Wanted to mention beautiful photos were taken by member @julieflorio
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