By Arthur Northrop
If there is one thing Paula Bowers and Bobbie Pullon, co-owners of The Ridge Clay Arts Studio and Gallery in Johnston, agree on is that Caroline O’Neal is a talented potter and entrepreneur. “Caroline has created several tiny businesses,” said Bowers. Caroline is Bobbie Pullon’s granddaughter and the major reason Pullon is involved in the county’s pottery scene at this point. Pullon accompanied her granddaughter to pottery class and finally asked if she could make something.
Caroline sells pickles, soaps, and buttons among her other endeavors. Bowers noted that part of what they do when people take their pottery classes is to teach them how to market their artwork. She noted that Caroline, her mother, and her grandmother have totally different styles. “It’s been fun seeing them blossom and seeing them take off in their own directions. Not one of them has the same style,” said Bowers.
Like other businesses, COVID-19 has impacted The Ridge Clay Arts. Bowers explained that the social distancing requirements have reduced the size of classes and birthday parties they can handle. She did say that their members were able to continue to come into the business to spin pots because her and Pullon created a schedule and their patrons had access to the store one at a time. She also noted that retail sales had dropped during the pandemic and COVID-19 also impacted their summer camps.
Even with the downturn, Bowers expressed that they feel very blessed that they have not had to close. “Our mission is to educate the people of Edgefield County and surrounding communities about pottery and the history of pottery and to keep it alive,” explained Pullen. Pullon joined the business after she retired from nursing and began her signature angel plates, bowls, and ornaments while accompanying her granddaughter to pottery classes.
The potters are members and promoters of the Potter’s Guild. The guild seeks to help guild members in Johnston, Trenton, and Edgefield grow asartists. We also want to bring in more people to do pottery as a hobby, they don’t have to be entrepreneurs. The co-owners just want to let peopleknow there is another piece of art where you can express yourself. They are eagerly awaiting the time where they can work with students in the county’s elementary and middle schools.
Caroline developed JGs (Johnston Ghost – see photo) last October. “We hid them and people turned them in for treats,” beamed Caroline. Last year they could not remember how many they made and where they hid the JGs. This year the JGs are numbered. Be on the lookout for The Ridge Clay Art’s JGs. Turn one in for a treat if you find it or place it in your window to keep Johnston Ghost out of your home! Arthur Northrop