Labor Day weekend a time to recognize those who labor

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Patty Crockett opened her shop, South Paw Ceramics, almost 25 years ago. It has survived all these years through word of mouth and loyal customers. Photo by Sharon Rice.

Patty Crockett opened her shop, South Paw Ceramics, almost 25 years ago. It has survived all these years through word of mouth and loyal customers. Photo by Sharon Rice.

As Canyon Lakers head into Labor Day weekend, most workers will have an extra day to rest from their labors and, perhaps, count their blessings that they have a job or their own business. This is a community busy with business owners – many of them women.

In one building alone in the Towne Center, the following businesses are owned by women: South Paw Ceramics by Patty Crockett, CL Nails by Vien Son, Alternative Wellness Day Spa by Shawna Palmer, Farmers Insurance by Sandi Geer, Village Lights by Barbara Vuoso, Just 4 Gifts by Aprile McKinnon, Pack Wrap and Post by Debby Gagnon and Bombshells by sisters Johanna Granados and Stephanie Stout.

Patty, Barbara and Debby have had their businesses in the same building (southeast corner of Towne Center) for more than 20 years; putting them on the list for The Friday Flyer’s ongoing series featuring businesses that have been in the Towne Center 20 years or longer. That’s enough time for the owners to know and be known by a lot of Canyon Lakers.

Patty’s specialty ceramics business attracts customers from Hemet to Canyon Lake to Lake Elsinore and beyond. About 10 of her customers have been painting ceramics with her since the store opened almost 25 years ago. Others have learned about it through word of mouth, since she doesn’t have a website or advertising budget.

Patty is pictured with a new customer, Kay Klein, who has been busy painting gifts that include a 21-piece tea set and and 23-piece chess set. This is the time of year many customers start painting gifts and decor for the holidays.

Patty is pictured with a new customer, Kay Klein, who has been busy painting gifts that include a 21-piece tea set and and 23-piece chess set. This is the time of year many customers start painting gifts and decor for the holidays.

Two customers were in the store on a recent day. One of them, Kay Klein, has been painting there only three months but already has finished a 21-piece tea set for her granddaughter, and is finishing a 23-piece chess set and a large ranger figurine. All are gifts.

The other customer, Nancy Jacobson, has been painting at South Paw Ceramics since the doors opened April 9, 1991. One of the biggest projects Nancy has ever painted is a 17-piece nativity set that she donated to her church. Both women praise Patty for her knowledge, patience and generosity.

When the Jr. Women’s Club created the tile wall fundraiser to erect a shade structure over the Sunset Beach playground in 2000-01, Patty provided at cost the tiles, paints, glaze and firing for the hundreds of tiles that cover the wall. She has done the same for the Tennis Club wall, next to the parking lot – though that project has languished the past few years.

She also provides finished projects for fundraiser opportunity drawings, one of the most memorable being a large angel for the Stanyons’ Heart to Heart Foundation.

What sets Patty’s store apart from some of the popular franchise ceramics stores like Painted Earth is that she makes all of her own ceramic pieces from beginning to end. She has teaching certifications from Duncan Ceramic Products and Mayco Colors, and owns thousands of plaster molds from which she makes greenware and bisque.

Greenware is created from liquid clay slip that is cast in a mold. The greenware, which is grayish in color and still somewhat soft, needs to be smoothed to remove the seams prior to firing. Extra detailing may be added or taken away at this time.

A greenware piece fired in a kiln is called bisque and, unless painted prior to firing, is white and ready for painting. These processes take place in the back room of her store. In the front of the store, shelves are lined with bisque pieces that include everything from yard art to kitchenware to holiday decor.

This is the time of year that people start painting holiday centerpieces and Christmas gifts. Patty charges an $8 sitting fee and the cost of the piece – which may run from $3 to $50 and up. The fee includes the paints, glazes and on-site firing.

But how does one get started in such a business?

Patty says she first started painting ceramics in 1979 to break a smoking habit. She began taking classes on pouring and painting and got her certifications. After seeing her interest, friends and family encouraged her to open a shop – which she did in 1986 with a business partner in Sun City.

When that partnership dissolved, she began looking for a new location in the Canyon Lake Towne Center. Patty chose the name South Paw Ceramics because she is left-handed and “South Paw” was a nickname her father always called her. She started the business with a $4,000 loan and almost 2,000 molds.

She offers both greenware and bisque with an emphasis on helping the customer achieve the desired product. For customers who are new to ceramics, she will walk them through each step of the process, helping them select a greenware or bisque piece, as well as the type of paint, colors and finish. She also teaches painting techniques to achieve a desired effect. “If you can color in a coloring book, you can paint ceramics,” says Patty. She also makes the shop available for workshops and special parties.

Patty’s story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the important men in her life. When she opened South Paw Ceramics, her last name was Anweiler. Patty says she was blessed to be married to her first husband for 30 years before he passed away in 2003.

In 2005, she married Steve Crockett, whom she met at Cornerstone, her home church. Patty calls him her “best friend” and an integral part of her business. Among other tasks, he helps mix the liquid clay to the right consistency and moves and pour molds. Some of the bigger molds can weigh up to 120 pounds. He also enjoys painting and has painted almost two dozen chess sets, one of which was raffled two years ago for $420 to feed the homeless.

Patty says her business hasn’t made much of a profit over the years, but notes, “This is where the Lord wants me . . . I feel blessed by what I have and who I have in my life.”

South Paw Ceramics, like most businesses in the Towne Center, will be closed on Labor Day. Scheduled the first Monday every September, Labor Day is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the United States. That goes for Patty Crockett and all those who labor in the City of Canyon Lake.

South Paw Ceramics is open Tuesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday evenings, 6 to 9 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The store is closed the last Saturday of the month, as well as Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 951-244-1195.

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Sharon Rice