Local paint-your-own ceramics studio Earth, Glaze and Fire recently completed its fifth move in 25 years, but the owners say they expect its latest location to be its forever home.
“It really belongs here,” says co-owner Danielle Ireland.
The old location on Highway 99 in Hazel Dell closed in early April. The new studio at 1800 F St. near downtown Vancouver debuted about two months later, adorned with a “Grand Re-Re-Re-Re-Re Opening” banner in a nod to the opening theme of the TV show “Bob’s Burgers.”
The studio is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. All ages are welcome and no appointments are needed — in fact, the studio is walk-ins only.
The studio has also gone through five owners since its founding in 1995, and is currently run by Ireland and her daughter Addi Dearinger. Its previous home was in Hazel Dell, but all the prior locations were near downtown Vancouver, so the latest move feels more like a return home, Ireland says.
Earth, Glaze and Fire’s first three locations were storefronts along Main Street, and it was still in the third of those locations, near 21st Street, when Ireland and Dearinger bought the business in 2011. The space wasn’t ideal, Ireland says, so they began looking for a new home almost immediately.
“We’ve been looking for a long time,” Dearinger says.
The store had no parking lot, and the meter limits on nearby public stalls were a hassle for customers, who often spent longer than two hours in the studio. The arrival of several new bars along Main Street also created an atmosphere that was less conducive for a family-friendly art studio.
But no downtown possibilities emerged. So in 2016 the duo moved to the Hazel Dell storefront, which offered an abundance of space and parking at the cost of being farther away from the downtown core. But the Hazel Dell space had its own issues, including crime. After the studio was burglarized in November, Ireland and Dearinger renewed their search for locations in or near downtown Vancouver.
They didn’t make headway until they happened to drive by and notice the studio space for sale on McLoughlin Boulevard. It had been available for lease for two days and already had another offer, Ireland says, but they were able to make a convincing case that leasing to their business would be the best use for the property.
“I think the potential for Earth, Glaze and Fire just hasn’t been realized,” Ireland says. “There’s so much more we’re going to do, and we’re now in a place where we can do it.”
New studio transition
Ireland and Dearinger make no attempt to hide their excitement about the new studio, which in many ways feels like the best of all possible worlds.
“It feels like a privilege that we get to do this,” Ireland says.
It’s only a couple minutes from the 2106 Main St. location in Uptown Village — the most recent Vancouver home — but those few blocks make all the difference. Even though it’s still on a main road, the surrounding property is more residential, giving the area a quiet neighborhood atmosphere. And it has its own parking lot, allowing customers to stay and paint as long as they want.
Ireland and Dearinger overhauled the interior, filling the main open space with a dozen tables where customers can take their time painting sculptures that line the shelves. Some of the available pieces include practical items like plates and mugs, but the majority are figurines of animals and objects.
The center of the studio features an enclosed room with its own table and shelves, which the owners plan to use as a classroom. Large windows around the perimeter ensure that the space doesn’t feel completely cut off from the main area.
At 2,200 square feet, the new studio isn’t quite as big as the Hazel Dell location, so something did have to give: the clay production half of the operation had to be moved off-site, and is now run out of Ireland’s house in Ridgefield, casting new sculptures to refill the shelves from the company’s collection of more than 4,000 molds.
“We make every single thing we sell,” Ireland says. “That’s where we differ from other studios.”
But once the pieces make it on to the shelves, they’ll stay in the studio until a customer picks them up — the painted pieces are dipped in glaze and put through a final firing in a pair of kilns in the studio’s small workroom.
When production was in-house, Ireland says she and Dearinger found themselves constantly having to split their attention between running production and helping customers in the studio. The move gave them a chance to try out a new schedule in which the studio only opens three days per week, with production taking place on the off days, leaving Ireland and Dearinger free to focus all their attention on one task at a time.
Ireland and Dearinger say they plan to maintain the studio’s friendly atmosphere and accessible tools, with the goal of giving customers a chance to tap into an artistic side they may not have known they had. “I’m not an artist” is the most common thing Ireland says she hears from new visitors. But once they get started painting, they realize they weren’t giving themselves enough credit.
The studio will also continue to emphasize locally sourced and American-made materials such as clay from Tacoma and paints from Portland. In fact, the only imported things in the studio are the paintbrushes, Ireland says, and she’s working to try to find an American brand.
Ireland and Dearinger have big plans for the classroom space, which they intend to use to host classes and workshops focused on not only on painting but also glazing and hand-building, working directly with earthenware slab clay.
The studio already has established relationships with local schools, both as a destination for young artists and a source of donated materials for art classrooms. But Dearinger says one of the long-term goals of the new studio will be to establish new programs and classes specifically to connect with additional communities such as veterans and seniors.
More broadly, Ireland says she hopes the new location will enable Earth, Glaze and Fire to become more of a fixture of both downtown Vancouver overall and the Arnada neighborhood where it’s located, creating an exciting new destination for residents who want to go somewhere exciting and close to home.
“We’re making this community a community with this place,” she says.