Craftsman House Gallery offers customers many reasons to visit, enjoy, and purchase art and craft. They have been named the “Best New Gallery in the U.S.” by Niche Magazine, and “Florida Retailer of the Year” by the Florida Retail Federation. Owner Jeff Schorr graciously agreed to an interview on how they create the magic that brings rave reviews and repeat visitors.
ABI: What was your original vision, and how did finding your historic house fit into it?
JS: We were looking for a space where we could have a gallery, along with a working pottery studio, and a café. We wanted to bring together our love of honest craftsmanship, good food, and great music. We were insistent that the quality of food in our café be on par with the art in the gallery. We were looking for a building with a homey feel, but still in the downtown business district.
As soon as we walked into the historic 1918 Arts & Crafts bungalow, it felt right. The wraparound front porch lent itself to being a gathering place for the community. The carriage house would be transformed into the working pottery studio. Our dog Chad (a mellow Akita), could wander throughout the garden art courtyard. Flexible zoning permitted not only commercial and residential, but also light industrial. This allowed us to build our 70 cubit foot gas kiln, where we fire the pottery. The bungalow itself is a work of art.
We wanted to show people how they can incorporate art into their everyday lives by displaying the art in a home setting. The 2nd floor apartment provides living space for an artist-in-residence. We loved the idea of recreating the Arts & Crafts lifestyle by having artists working, living, creating, and selling their work on-site.
ABI: Please tell us about your Artist-in Residence program.
JS: We have two to three artists in our program at any time. Typically they are recent graduates from an undergraduate ceramics program. It’s a good first step for an aspiring ceramic artist. They get 24-hour access to the pottery studio, free kiln firing, representation in the gallery at an elevated commission rate, guidance on how to get into retail art shows, and wholesale to galleries. They work in the gallery/café, trading hours for their rent.
On top of that, we are located in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida, which has been named “The Top Arts Destination in the US” (mid-sized cities) for the past two years in American Style magazine’s reader’s poll. Along with being a part of a thriving arts community, we also have the draw of warm weather & beautiful beaches.
ABI: You schedule events that make your gallery a favorite go-to destination in your area. What do you have planned?
JS: The 2nd Saturday of each month we participate in St. Petersburg’s Downtown Gallery Walk. We often feature a Meet-the-Artist event.
We have a number of art shows each year including our Invitational Teapot Show, Art for the Earth (recycled art), Clay Pride, and Pot Roast, our annual charity pottery raffle.
Our studio allows us to conduct workshops from national clay artists.
We present national touring musicians in a small, intimate setting. Our upcoming concerts include Cheryl Wheeler, Van Dyke Parks, and Chuck Brodsky. Past concerts have featured such names as Janis Ian, Peter Rowan, Tom Rush, Donna The Buffalo, The Persuasions, Michelle Shocked, Jimmy LaFave, John McCutcheon, …
ABI: What type of work do you sell in your gallery and how do you display it?
JS: We sell Fine American Craft, in a comfortable and accessible environment.
In response to the industrial revolution where assembly lines stressed increased efficiency, the American Arts & Craft Movement focused on the importance of function and beauty. In keeping with this concept, we represent over 300 national & local artists who work in clay, glass, jewelry, wood, and other mediums.
The style of the architecture so beautifully accommodates the display of much of our artwork. The built-in cabinets are natural as display spaces. We supplement that with a combination of thrift store finds and custom built pedestals.
ABI: Craftsman House has an on-site ceramic studio, and an interesting sales strategy. Can you elaborate?
JS: Our on-site pottery studio is always open to customers. This creates a personal connection between the consumer and the artist. People can watch the artists at work, and ask questions about the entire process.
All food & drink in the café is served on handmade pottery which is made in the on-site studio. Guests can experience the pleasure of eating and drinking from pottery made by an artist’s hand. They can then purchase that same piece and others from the gallery.
Inherent in the art, each piece is one of a kind. At kiln openings pottery enthusiasts share in that magical moment of discovery when each unique piece emerges still warm from the kiln. Many people enjoy having that first shot at purchasing these new pieces.