HOME&GARDEN: dream CHASERS become dream CATCHERSMichelle Sears and Chris Carlson have never met. But if they sat down over a cup of coffee, they’d find they have a lot in common, not the least of which is a commitment to pursuing their dreams. Both women are creative, artistic sorts. However, both live in the real world where raising a family, paying the bills and a nine to five job are all part of the package. The thing that sets Michelle and Chris apart is they’ve managed to meet the rigors of daily life without giving up the passions that make them tick. And that has helped to make their dreams a reality.
By: Jill Pertler, Living North Magazine
Michelle Sears – the journey to Savannah’s Pottery House
For Michelle Sears, the spark that eventually became passion was first ignited in a high school pottery class. “I found the process of sculpting clay, and then painting, glazing and firing it fascinating,” she explained. “I’ve worked with a lot of different mediums, but this one just stuck.”
Michelle continued studying art in college, where her interests centered on ceramics, clay sculpture, acrylics and beading. “Each piece that I created gave me a great deal of inspiration and appreciation for what I was learning,” she said. “And I’m still learning today. I am a member of the Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association, which teaches new techniques and encourages artists to share their ideas.”
She dreamed about one day opening her own studio, but for the time-being joined the “real” world. She has two young daughters and works at Volunteer Services in Carlton County.
“I dreamed about opening my own business, but I knew it would take a lot of thought and preparation – not to mention money,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure if it was a possibility, but I kept my eyes open for the perfect location. I came across a small place that used to be a barbershop. It was in a great location, and I knew I could make it work.”
Michelle began renovating and painting, and before long the barbershop was no more. Savannah’s Pottery House had taken its place.
The pottery shop is named after Michelle’s daughter. “She is my inspiration,” Michelle said. “She was very small, yet had so much excitement when it came to art. I saw her success and enthusiasm over her own abilities and thought it would be wonderful to provide that same opportunity to others.”
People can come to Savannah’s Pottery House and choose a ceramic piece to paint. Michelle then glazes and fires the piece at a whopping 1828 degrees Fahrenheit – and a work of art is created. “I want to inspire people’s imaginations and let them enjoy their personal self-expression. The creative process is important to helping people define themselves and who they are,” she explained.
Michelle’s approach to art is a carefree one. “I believe that there are no mistakes in art,” she said. “In fact, that’s the motto of Savannah’s Pottery House. I want people to come to the shop and approach their project with a carefree, fun attitude, just like children approach art. As adults, I think sometimes we forget how to do that.”
According to Michelle, we are all artists. One of the biggest things she hope to accomplish is to help people recognize their own artistic ability. “It’s about coming together to enjoy art and make wonderful memories with family and friends.”
Savannah’s Pottery House is located in Cloquet’s west end at 108 Avenue C. Business hours are Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Private parties of up to 20 people can be scheduled at other times for no additional charge. “We’ve hosted birthday parties, ladies’ night out parties, bridal and baby showers, baccalaureates and holiday events.” Michelle is also available to come into schools and lead a classroom through a project.
For more information, or to schedule your next get-together, visit Michelle’s website: savannahspotteryhouse.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Michelle at 879-1742.
Chris Carlson – teach what you sow
Chris Carlson sees the earth as a canvas just waiting for her energy and influence. Chris is a Master Gardener with the University of Minnesota and for years enjoyed tending her family, her students and her gardens at home with equal amounts of tender loving care.
Chris is an elementary school teacher and has brought her love of gardening to school – both inside and outside of the classroom. The front yard of the school where she teaches (Churchill Elementary in Cloquet) is covered in massive perennial gardens, which were planted in large part because of Chris’ influence. Students at the school pull weeds, water and tend to the plants – all the while learning the numerous lessons that gardening provides.
“I truly love teaching,” Chris commented. “And combining that with my love of gardening has been really fun.”
Five years ago, Chris and her husband saw their lives changing, as their youngest son left for college. “At that time we were able to purchase a 93-acre farm near Moose Lake,” she explained. “It needed lots of work, but it was a creative challenge that we embraced. We worked hard to restore the house and then turned our attention to the landscaping. It was an untouched canvas and I enjoyed creating all the gardens to fill it.”
Chris has always looked forward to her summers as a time spent in the garden. As she spent more and more time at her farm in Moose Lake, a new idea was born: a gift shop, aptly named Our Country Cottage. “I began to visualize the possibility of having a shop out on the farm,” she said. “The idea came mainly out of my love for gardening and the country lifestyle.”
Creating the shop meant one thing: more work. But Chris and her husband are no strangers to a little elbow grease. “My husband built a small store area where I sell country-style accessories,” she said. “Last summer I expanded the shop to include a refurbished cottage and more collectibles. I also sell perennials, garden items and primitive collectibles. I have always enjoyed creating things, and some of my projects, including handmade baskets, candles, hooked rugs and dried-flower cards are available at the shop.”
There is a lot to look at – not only within the country cottage shop, but throughout the grounds as well. Chris has created an environment that encourages conversation and lingering walks through the various gardens that fill the area. “People are welcome to stroll through the gardens and see all of the perennials in a garden setting,” she said. “And the coffee is always on. I encourage people to pour themselves a cup and sit on the porch and soak up the peaceful country atmosphere.”
It’s clear that gardening brings Chris a great deal of peace and contentment. Through Our Country Cottage, she hopes to share this feeling with others. “My advice to anyone considering pursuing their own creative dream would be that if you love what you are doing, go for it,” she said.
“I recognize that I need creative challenges in my life and Our Country Cottage certainly provides that,” Chris said with a smile. “It’s basically a hobby gone wild!”
Our Country Cottage is located near Moose Lake, three miles west on highways 73/27 and another three miles south on East County Road 134. The shop will open for the season on June 11, and will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until July 18. It’s a brief season, but a special place that’s worth the trip. For more information, contact Chris at 218-428-0902.
It’s true that Michelle Sears and Chris Carlson have never met. But their commitment to sharing their passions puts them on a parallel course. These are women who just won’t give up. In a world where time is money and money is time, Michelle and Chris have decided to take what they love and share it with others. My hunch is if they ever did meet over coffee, they’d each find a kindred spirit – not to mention a friend – sitting across the table.