[Rachel Fixsen / Moab Sun News]

“It’s not because I think I’m gonna make a lot of money, especially in the short term,” said Liz Ford, “but I just hate it to see it go away. And so I was willing to take a risk.”

When Ford heard that Desert Sun Ceramics, a beloved local community art studio, was closing its doors she decided to purchase the business. Desert Sun has reopened with new safety protocols.

Ford has a personal commitment to the business, as she helped to get it off the ground in 2016. She and Barb Gregoire, the original owner, worked together to locate a space, find equipment, and remodel the space. Ford taught classes and stepped in to run the studio when Gregoire, and later owner Hayley Knouff, were out of town.

“Liz has brought a lot of light into Desert Sun over the last few years teaching classes and helping me out around the studio,” said Knouff.

“She’s a truly passionate and fun instructor and I know she’ll bring that same vibrant energy to the studio as the new owner, even in spite of a pandemic.”

Local potter Samantha Derbyshire is relieved that the studio will continue.

“It’s a great space,” Derbyshire said, adding that a home studio couldn’t compare to a shared space where artists and makers can learn from each other.

Derbyshire isn’t alone in her appreciation. Ford said the ceramics community showed their enthusiasm beginning on opening day, when six local potters volunteered to help her clean, sanitize, and organize the studio.

A few weeks before Knouff announced that she was closing the studio, Derbyshire had been working on a large batch of pots with the intention of selling them.

“It was a little bit of a roller coaster,” Derbyshire said. She “frantically” worked to complete the forty or so pots she’d begun.

“In the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘What’s the way forward after this? Do I get my own wheel?’” Derbyshire remembered. She was happy to hear that the studio would be reopening and she wouldn’t have to come up with another solution.

To address the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford has designed a list of protocols, which she’s emailed to registered and prospective studio users. No more than six people can be in the studio at once, users must check their temperature on entry and anyone with symptoms of illness must stay home.

The joy of creating

Ford got hooked on ceramics when she took a two-hour wheel-throwing workshop as a freshman in college.

In Moab, she began making “action mugs” with appealing designs of stick-figure characters doing outdoor sports like kayaking, jeeping, or mountain biking. The pieces are popular items at Moab Made on Main Street in downtown Moab.

Ford has been teaching pottery for years, but she will be making some class-format changes going forward. Two-session classes will come with open studio passes and classes will be limited to five students, so there will be ample space in the studio for social distancing. Participants must wear masks.

Social distancing protocols will be a departure from routine for Ford.

“I’ve never taught a class without physically having my hands on their hands,” she said of teaching wheel technique to new potters.

“It’s usually very hands-on,” said Ford. “So this will be a learning curve for me too.”

The first class, which is starting this month, is nearly full. To learn more about future classes, visit desertsunceramics.com.

Ford said she doesn’t need to make a lot of money to keep the studio going, but she does need to stay solvent. She hopes the community won’t take the availability of the studio for granted, and that people who want to give ceramics a try will make the commitment and sign up for a class or a punch pass. The studio, she noted, can be a cool refuge in the hot summer season.

“The timing of all this has been so unexpected, but I don’t think it could have worked out any better given the difficult circumstances,” said Knouff. “I’m really excited to see where Liz takes it!”

Local pottery studio slated to close will continue under new ownership

“I’m stoked that it’s back!”

– Samantha Derbyshire

Where: 1320 S 191

When: Open studio hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. Class dates and times vary.

Cost: a ten-visit punch pass, valid for 3 months, is $120. Class prices vary

Info: visit desertsunceramics.com or call 435-268-2233 or email moabdsc@gmail.com