Father and daughter duo Jeff Edwards and Liz O’Brien opened Northwest Ceramics last year, but their passion for ceramics began long before that.
While Jeff and Liz have taught ceramics classes for over five years, Liz has practiced ceramics since 2011 and her father started in 2013.
Their love for this hands-on art form has not only created a deep bond between father and daughter, it has brought a fun, new activity to the Rogue Valley.
A Passion For Ceramics
Liz graduated from Southern Oregon University with a Studio Art major and an emphasis in ceramics.
“I started taking art classes at SOU and fell in love with ceramics. I was drawn to the pottery wheel because it’s more three-dimensional than other art,” explained Liz. “I love to manipulate the clay, and eventually, ceramics class became like a meditative space for me.”
Intrigued by what his daughter was doing, Jeff wanted to learn about ceramics too, so Liz bought him a membership to the Ashland Art Center.
“That was the beginning of the end for me,” said Jeff, laughing. “I was hooked!”
Prior to opening Northwest Ceramics with his daughter, Jeff worked in construction. After getting the membership from Liz, he would visit the Ashland Art Center for a couple hours each morning on his way to work.
“Ceramics is a creative outlet with no limitations. You can paint on it, sculpt it, and do so much more,” Jeff explained.
But ceramics will always hold a special place in Jeff’s heart for another reason.
“I love that Elizabeth slowly pulled me into it and got me into teaching with her at the Ashland Art Center. That was another revelation because I never taught before. I found I love helping people develop their style and love of ceramics. It’s been a learning journey for me with Elizabeth,” he said.
Making A Dream A Reality
According to Liz, she and her dad had always fantasized about having their own studio, and started looking for a location last January.
Then in March the pandemic happened and they thought it wasn’t meant to be.
“When things started to reopen in June, dad said it was time. He believed it would be a positive experience because people needed a creative outlet. And ceramics is a naturally socially-distancing art, even in classes,” Liz said.
Like something out of a dream, it all fell into place. Jeff and Liz found a location in Phoenix and knew it was perfect.
“We walked in and thought it was our dream studio. There was tons of natural light and two big, glass garage doors at the front and back of the studio,” said Liz.
“While we taught ceramics at the Ashland Art Center for five years, we found many of our students were from Medford and Grants Pass. So we wanted a studio that was closer to where we were drawing students from. Being in Phoenix just felt right,” said Jeff.
A New Studio & Journey
Northwest Ceramics officially opened in July 2020. However, it has been a whirlwind experience since its opening day.
According to Liz, the studio closed because of the fires and reopened in October, closed again in November, and reopened in January.
Even amidst a turbulent year, Jeff and Liz have received an amazing amount of support from the community.
“We have been slowly growing and gaining members. We host classes and are gearing up after slowing down a bit,” said Jeff.
Liz agreed. Their classes continue to fill up quickly, and every time they have a waitlist. Both Liz and her dad feel blessed because their members have stayed with them since the beginning and continue to pursue their interest in ceramics.
While Jeff and Liz have received support from the community, they have also given back to the people who gave them so much.
“Elizabeth has done a lot of community outreach. We raised funds for the fire relief and donated $1,000 to the Talent-Phoenix Fire Relief Fund,” said Jeff.
“We were closed and wanted to help the community after the fire. We made mugs, sold them, and donated the proceeds. Elizabeth and I wanted to give back for all the support we have gotten,” he explained.
Shaping A New Future
Opening and running the studio has been an incredible learning experience for Jeff and Liz.
“We’re always learning from our students, in addition to helping them along in their ceramics journey. It’s a joy to come here every day,” said Jeff.
It was also important for Liz and her dad to open a studio where people could come and be creative.
“Many of our members have thanked us for creating a place where they can relax and have fun,” said Liz.
*Photo Credit: Northwest Ceramics Facebook page*