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How a pandemic pottery hobby became a lucrative side-hustle for this Port Coquitlam studio owner

Scott Pierce found peace and tranquility throwing pots during his pandemic work pause; he's since opened a warehouse so others can learn ceramic arts, buy supplies and kiln-dry their work.

Post-pandemic second-guessing has got many workers wondering if they should quit their jobs or take a side-hustle.

Here's how one man took the plunge.

Scott Pierce woke up one day during the pandemic with time on his hands.

Now he's the owner of a new Port Coquitlam studio and ceramic supply warehouse located at 10-1770 McLean Ave. that has lit up a passion for pottery among Tri-City residents.

He's not alone, like sour-dough bread and cycling, pottery became a popular hobby for those seeking to be creative during the enforced slow-down.

For Pierce, the question of what to do with his pandemic time occurred part-way through the COVID-19 medical emergency when his corporate job managing a team of HVAC salespeople started to slow down and his demanding travel schedule came to a halt.

"I was looking for something to pass the time," said Pierce.

The 35-year-old Burnaby resident cast about for distraction and dug out his old potter's wheel, setting it up in his second bedroom.

He came to love the peace and tranquility of working in clay but while he found initial success at local farmers' markets for his brand of kiln-fired clay works, he started to wonder if a bigger business might be in his future.

Many potters like himself were having a difficult time finding materials, equipment and some place to fire their works.

HOW HE STARTED IN BUSINESS

Maybe there was an opportunity to open a community space for potters, Pierce thought, and the Tri-Cities seemed like just the place.

He researched the area, and found a strong arts community — backstopped by Place des Arts in Coquitlam and PoMo Arts in Port Moody — where ceramicists create and show their works.

However, he thought there was room enough for a privately-owned business in PoCo.

Pierce connected with Courtney Brewer, another potter professional, and the two started looking for opportunities to open a business that would cater to pottery enthusiasts, both dabblers and professionals.

After multiple hints on Instagram, the duo opened The Clay Warehouse as a hub where ceramicists can create, kiln-fire their works, buy clay and glazes and learn the art.

The Clay Warehouse is a 2,000 square foot space that includes a commercial section for glazes, clay and tools, a studio with tables and pottery wheels, two kilns for firing and shelves for storage.

There's also a comfortable corner with a couch and low lighting, essentially a space to wait for a class or to plan your next pottery creation. 

Since the business opened in November, Tri-City high schools, such as Dr. Charles Best in Coquitlam and Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam have been knocking at the door looking for supplies while fledgling and experienced potters have been signing up for workshops.

FROM SIDE-HUSTLE TO JOB

So far Pierce is keeping his day job, and is putting in 16-hour days to keep both his job and business going.

But he believes that one day his side-hustle could become his full time job. In the meantime, the ambitious entrepreneur said he is loving the new business and helping to grow a community of potters. 

There have been some challenges with the supply chain, he admits: a successful delivery of 15 skids of clay weighing 25,000 pounds may not be replicated for a few months given world-wide supply chain issues.

And “nerve-wracking” start-up issues, such as ensuring enough supply, and dealing with self-doubts, is all part of the process of starting something new.

Still, Pierce said he’s not looking back, he's okay with being out of his comfort zone, and he encourages others to follow their dreams.

In the meantime, Pierce said, throwing pots and learning to make something by hand is bring many people, including himself, a sense of purpose.

"It's really just about taking your mind off of something for bit. Getting used to working with basically a piece of the earth. It's such it's such a rewarding practice because it's just such an ancient art form."

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