*** This story was published January 30, 2009 in the Bristol Herald Courier.***
BRISTOL, Va. - The opening of Kil'n Time paint-your-own-pottery studio will be bittersweet for owner Terri Gregory. Originally Gregory planned to share the moment with her business partner Dawn White, a local artist, who was to help her run the studio.
"I'm just a CPA. She was the artist, the creative one," Gregory said.
Gregory and White came up with the idea for a pottery studio from their visits to Hilton Head, S.C.
"We would take our families to pottery studios there and we really enjoyed them," she said.
When the opportunity to buy the old building at 818 State Street became available, Gregory and her husband jumped on it.
"We knew we wanted to help downtown Bristol so we thought this was a perfect spot," she said.
And Gregory and White began planning.
"We had a list of names and she actually came up with the name Kil'n Time," Gregory said.
However, in April 2008, a wrench was thrown into their plans when White was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
"I was moving forward while she was getting cancer treatments and we were hoping to meet back together for this in the fall," Gregory said.
That plan never unfolded, because White died in October.
"I'm happy we are to this point but sad that she's not around to see it and enjoy it and be apart of it," Gregory said.
Two years in the making, what used to be an old warehouse that stored pinball machines for Lark Amusements has been transformed into a very polished and artsy atmosphere with a downtown metropolitan feel. Kil'n Time will open to the public Feb. 4, 2009.
"She [White] had a lot to do with the early planning of it and she would have loved how it has turned out," Gregory said. Colorful murals and eccentric artwork decorate the walls and bathrooms. The studio's decor offers several subtle surprises including nine hidden hand-painted mice in the murals and an animated shelf in the women's restroom. The imaginative interior is the result of creative efforts from area craftspeople and artisans.
Over-sized and colorfully painted tables and chairs are grouped in the center of the building while shelves of paintable objects line the walls. In the back is a hand-crafted pirate ship complete with mast, cannons, and treasure chests. Gregory said the ship isn't just for decoration. "We knew we had to make a kid's area so they could have a place to play in if they didn't want to paint and their parents do," she said.
Gregory said the studio is family-friendly and caters to both children and parents.
"We are affordable and offer something for everyone," she said.
From ballerinas, dinosaurs and spiders to dishes, bowls and tile, customers can choose from a variety of paintable pieces. The studio also will offer painting classes.
"We plan to have local artists teach a variety of topics like brush techniques, decorative painting, and Japanese brush strokes," said manager Sylvia Musgrove.
Choosing a piece is just the first step in the ceramic process.
"Once you paint it, we put it in the kiln," Gregory said. A kiln is an oven in which pottery or ceramic ware is fired.
Musgrove is in charge of the two kilns, Kiln Kong and Kiln Zilla, located in one of the back rooms.
"We dip them in a clear glaze and let that dry. This gives it a nice smooth surface. Then we fire it in the kiln to 1,830 degrees, which takes about eight hours," Musgrove said.
Gregory said she hopes the pottery studio will help support downtown Bristol while serving as a reminder of fond memories making pottery with her friend, Dawn White.
"Her inspiration will live on through this studio," Gregory said. Gregory said an artist in Chattanooga is working on a portrait of White and hopes to have it ready for the studio's grand opening.
"It's going to be a beautiful portrait of Dawn and her dog," she said.