Searching for a unique keepsake for someone special? Plan a visit to Scout & Molly’s Issaquah Highlands at Grand Ridge Plaza on Saturday, May 4 for a pop-up shop with Downing Pottery and its founder, Sarah Woodson.
A hyper-local brand, Downing Pottery handcrafts each piece in Tacoma. You might recognize their eclectic city mugs—especially Issaquah, Bellevue and Sammamish—as well as beautiful pieces that support important causes such as The Center for Whale Research. Without a doubt, each piece is a delight to hold and enjoy.
Grand Ridge Plaza caught up with Woodson to learn more about the story behind Downing Pottery and what’s in store for Saturday’s event at the new Scout & Molly’s boutique.
Grand Ridge Plaza: What was your inspiration for founding Downing Pottery?
Sarah Woodson: My inspiration for this product line, specifically the mugs with hand drawn representations of cities, towns and neighborhoods, was to celebrate home. I find what's unique and interesting about the places we live, and commemorate that on a piece of functional pottery that can be used every day.
Since I began this work over five years ago my design count has grown organically to over 100 places, as orders have come in from across town to across the state, then across the country and beyond. Thousands of mugs later, I'm told they've been given as gifts to remember a vacation, the site of a proposal or wedding, for housewarming, to kids going off to college, to friends moving away, in attempt to lure someone home, and as mementos of cities traveled to or stationed in. Places mean a lot to us and so does a cup of coffee in the morning! There seems to be a particularly resonant joy that comes from combining the two.
Grand Ridge Plaza: What will you be bringing with you to the Scout & Molly's pop-up shop?
Sarah Woodson: I will have some local mugs with me at Scout & Molly's: Issaquah, Bellevue, Sammamish and Seattle. Also, I will bring an array of other house and tableware from cups to spoon rests, platters and utensil holders.
Grand Ridge Plaza: Please tell us a little more about the Issaquah mug and the design.
Sarah Woodson: The Issaquah mug was easy! You've got a historic downtown with Tiger Mountain looming and paragliders drifting overhead. That mug designed itself.
Grand Ridge Plaza: How long does it take to make each mug?
Sarah Woodson: Each mug takes about an hour to make over a three- to four-week time frame. There's a lot of drying time in pottery, particularly in our wet season! All of my work starts with a lump of clay, thrown on the pottery wheel. The handles are formed, attached and dried slowly. The pieces go through the kilns for the first time slow and low to get every last bit of moisture out, and a day or so later they are cool enough for surface design.
I do the outlines with black glaze in a tiny, metal-tipped squirt bottle (think cake decorator in miniature) and fill in the color with small paint brushes. They are often finished with stamped lettering and a variety of shading then dipped in a clear glaze and fired again, up and over 1900 degrees. At full speed production I can make about 40 mugs a week.
Grand Ridge Plaza: What are your recommendations for Mother's Day gifts this year?
Sarah Woodson: My recommendations for Mother's Day gift giving is to shop local, shop small, shop handmade.
Save the date and join us at Scout & Molly’s for this fun and unique pop-up shop with Downing Pottery on Saturday, May 4 from noon to 4 pm!
Photo credit: Downing Pottery