Ceramics come to life

Published 9:24 am Thursday, February 16, 2012


Country Charm Ceramics in Ellendale is set up as a store and also a working studio where people can purchase and work on pottery projects. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

ELLENDALE — Renee Weston helped her mother move home from West Virginia after her father passed away. The only way Sandy Rahn was going to move to Ellendale was if she got to move her collection of 10,000 ceramic molds with her.

Country Charms Ceramics in Ellendale has 10,000 different molds to make bisques with. Some pieces are painted while others are glazed and then fired in a kiln. The pieces for sale to be painted range from skeletons on motorcycles to tea sets and home decor.

Weston said her mom never had a hobby until falling in love with ceramics. She was at a yard sale by her home in West Virginia and a friend got her started.

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“It was her undiscovered passion,” Weston said. “For 50 years she had no hobbies, and she picked up a paint brush and realized that’s what she had been waiting for.”

It has been five years since Rahn started her shop, Country Charm Ceramics. The business has been growing and opens its doors six days a week to let imaginations young and old run wild. Rahn has since moved back to West Virginia but Weston, who lives above the shop, has become co-owner and runs the business. When she isn’t in the store, Weston spends endless hours making her own items, shop samples or searching the internet for new ideas.

Inside the small shop, bisques, which are unglazed pottery, line the walls and fill the shelves. The bisques are made right in the shop allowing for special requests or personalized pieces. Four tables have been placed in the middle of the room for customers to sit down at and paint whatever piece they pick out. Weston encourages families and other customers to stay in the shop to do their painting because the mess stays in one place, she can teach them techniques if they need help and because all of the supplies needed are available instead of having to purchase them for home.

Weston said when kids paint it is an exciting time in the shop because they see their piece transform from a white chalky object to something shiny and colorful. She said there are times when they have a hard time choosing what colors they want and will return to a table with several bottles of paint they don’t even use, but they like having options.

“Adults lose their imagination. Horses are brown. Pigs are pink. Well, some kids’ pigs are blue and horses are orange,” Weston said. “As you grow older, you try to fit into those blocks. Kids don’t have that, they like what they like. That’s what makes it exciting for them.”

A child made this puppy while visiting Country Charm Ceramics in Ellendale. Owner Renee Weston said with all the options available, children have a hard time picking what they want to do, but always use their imagination.

Weston said she has learned from some of the children’s pieces to use colors together that she never would have thought to use.

“They give us inspiration for some things,” Weston said. “We’ll teach them the techniques, but they apply their imagination to it. We can’t give them the imagination. That’s the hardest part.”

Besides families and walk-in customers, Weston works with a group of homeschoolers one Tuesday of each month and also a home and hobby club, made up of elderly women who have been getting together for more than 50 years.

For those who don’t want to paint their own piece or don’t have the time to sit down in the shop or at home, Weston is willing to do the painting. But, she encouraged everyone to give it a try because it can be a lot simpler process than they think.

She said projects can take anywhere from 15 minutes to days. It all depends on who a person is and whether they are in it for the entertainment or in it for the end product and creativity aspect. Weston said there is no time limit for finishing pieces. Customers can start on a project one day and come back to it another. That way, if they run out of time in their schedule or just get tired of painting, they can take a break and finish the piece the way they envisioned it instead of rushing.

The shop is set up to be open 50 hours a week, but Weston offers more to her crafty customers.

“I will open outside my hours. If the door is locked ring the doorbell,” Weston said. “I live upstairs and I will run down here.”

Weston said once you catch the bug, it’s hard to stop. She said the only thing slowing her down from making pieces to keep for herself is that she’s run out of room in her home.