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Owner molds from clay new career, shop

<i>Debbie Griffin photo</i> Jennifer King opened Kinni Clayworks late last month in the downstairs retail space of 127 N. Main St.

For people of all ages who might want to sit down at a pottery wheel and create something useful out of dirt and water -- Kinni Clayworks offers the opportunity.

Owner Jennifer King recently opened a business in the lower level of the big retail space at 127 N. Main St., where it intersects with Maple Street.

Most recently known as the Beyond Lighting building, people also know the place as the "old Ben Franklin or Hallmark Store building."

In it, King offers hobby-pottery classes to people of all skill levels. She has eight pottery wheels and says she'll likely limit class sizes to 10 people.

Classes meet for two hours each week for four weeks. The first four-week session began in late last month. The next one begins the week of April 18.

Kinni Clayworks offers the classes at various times in the afternoon and evening hours, as well as on Saturday morning.

King will also offer at the end of the school year summer-camp programs for grades 2-12.

She says her website and the Go Kids Day website are the best way to keep up with class schedules and to register for the sessions.

For $60, each student gets 12.5 pounds of clay but can buy more if they need it. Class cost also covers access to the studio and all its equipment including the pottery wheel, wedging and hand-building tables, a kiln and more.

The owner says students can access the studio 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

She said except for wheelwork, people can work independently.

"As long as you're enrolled in a class for $60, you can access the studio for a month," said King.

The business owner says what students create will be up to them, but she'll encourage them to make something useful such as a coffee mug, platter, garden-plant tag, birdbath or set of bathroom accessories, maybe ceramic eggs for Easter.

The only limitation to size said King is, "The work has to fit in the kiln."

She said on Monday she'd just had the new kiln connected. Nearby sat the clay creations of the first class, soon to be painted and glazed, which King says is finishing the piece with color and a coating of powdered glass.

The owner says Kinni Clayworks is not a gallery but may someday display the works of ceramic artists.

She said she'll also be open to people hosting events in the space, for example a birthday party or other special-occasion celebration.

King said a few people have stopped in, curious to see what she's doing.

"I've had people ask if it's something they can do with their children," and she replies, "Yes."

Vision takes shape

When asked how long she's been a "potter," King explains, "I don't think I've earned that mantle yet."

The 42-year-old business owner said she earned a master's degree in counseling and held a job as a case worker in Iowa for five years.

She took pottery classes while earning her undergraduate degree, and has dabbled in the art on and off for years.

"I've always really liked it," said King, adding that she's focused on teaching but also welcomes skilled artists who may need studio time.

She moved to River Falls two years ago and says unemployment drove her to consider a new career. Her mind kept thinking of the pottery she'd always enjoyed.

King took a business class at UW-River Falls to see if the concept could become a viable business plan.

She said she received excellent support and guidance from the university, Pierce County Economic Development Corporation, local business owners and the Business Improvement District Board.

She researched the concept and found no businesses with a similar offering. She secured a commitment from her sister, a teacher in Hudson, to help with the summer-program curriculum.

King lives a few blocks away from the studio and said River Falls' charming downtown influenced her decision, too.

She loves the atmosphere, proximity to the Kinnickinnic River, and access to things like inexpensive movies at the Falls Theatre, old-fashioned candy at the Riverwalk Mercantile and artistic showings at Gallery 120.

King said she aims not necessarily to make a huge profit but to offer others a unique opportunity while making a living doing something she's always enjoyed.

She likes working with her hands, getting them dirty, and says clay is a basically a green business -- nothing but dirt and water with no waste. Though she has nothing against imports, the owner bought everything she needs from a supplier in Minneapolis and likes that most everything is American made.

King said she is a "do-er" and wants others to have a chance to "do" this too.

She'll encourage people to relax, have fun and realize it's OK to make mistakes or "throw a pot." The clay can always be recycled and made into something else.

King said, even with mistakes, "You'll still end up with something beautiful you can use."

Visit Kinni Clayworks online to learn more about upcoming class schedules - -- or contact King at or 715-222-4035.


The newly opened Kinni Clayworks hobbyist-pottery studio joins Gallery 120 4-8 p.m. this Friday, April 8, for an open-house event.

The new business at 127 N. Main St., across from Gallery 120, welcomes visitors who want to tour the studio, see a demonstration, ask questions about class sessions, and see what students have been doing.

Gallery 120 sits inside the building at 120 N. Main St., between Global M.A.D.E. fair-trade imports and Interior Concepts interior design. Respective business owners Ila June Brown-Pratt and Paula Korbel hold an open house in the gallery space each second Friday of the month.

The gathering enables local artists to display their work and gives people a chance to view it.

This week they feature works by drawing and woodcut-print artist Mary Barrett, "plein air" paintings artist Tom McGregor and metal sculptor Estela Lerma.

Owner of Kinni Clayworks studio Jennifer King said though this Friday will be her first open house, she plans to hold them regularly, too, in conjunction with the Gallery 120 monthly events.