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Tacoma artist's pottery just sells and sells and sells

How Sarah Woodson of Downing Pottery found a way to balance life with her surprising success. #k5evening

TACOMA, Wash. — In a Tacoma basement Sarah Downing Woodson turns lumps of clay into celebrations of hometowns.

"My motto is to celebrate home," she said. "A lot of the work that I do is about 'place'. I started really in the Pacific Northwest and then it's kind of grown out from there. So I've started with the places I know and love and have traveled to and lived in then it's grown out."

She has handmade mugs and utensil holders that celebrate everywhere from Tokyo to Tacoma, Buffalo to Boston, and Pittsburgh to Phoenix, nearly 200 city skylines in all.

"There is this never-ending well of people who are passionate about the place where they live," Woodson said.

She discovered her happy place, straddled around a pottery wheel, in 1999 when she took her first pottery class at South Seattle College.  

"And then pretty soon I was spending every moment I could at the studio and then it just eventually became my job," she said.

The job really took off about ten years ago when she designed a series of funky-looking Space Needle mugs.

"They just sold and sold and sold," she said. "It was really surprising."

Credit: Sarah Woodson
Various utensil holders made by Tacoma artist Sarah Woodson.

Demand for her skyline pottery is just as high today. At one point Woodson considered hiring a local factory to help her make her mugs.

"Everything I looked into it just lost... me," she said. "It lost kind of my hands and the uniqueness that goes into each piece. They're all a little different and I think that there's value in that."

So once a week Woodson takes just enough online orders to fill her kiln. And that's it. It usually only takes a couple of hours before she has to close her online store

Credit: KING TV
Sarah Woodson in her happy place, at a pottery wheel in a Tacoma basement.

"It's a first-come, first-serve system that starts over every Friday morning so if you miss out you only have to wait a few days until you get to try again," she said. 

That's how Woodson stays sane as an in-demand artist. She has found balance and a way to stay centered, not just at her pottery wheel, but in life. 

"I just kind of always come back to it's best when it's just me and I'm making them start to finish."

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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