Cherry Valley resident Jessica Scherer got fired up about her hobby.
Scherer, 36, recently launched Windy Hill Ceramics, taking what was a creative whim professional. Scherer casts, fires and glazes custom ceramic pieces and offers classes from her 111 OP Fields Road location in Cherry Valley.
“It started as a hobby that I’m growing into a business,” Scherer said. “I’ve been doing this for almost three years. I just decided on a whim that I wanted a kiln, so my parents got me one for my birthday. It sat for a while, then I came into this huge lot of molds.
“I went to school for communications,” she said. “This is just something that started. I’ve always been into different hobbies and learned things here and there. This one just grew.”
Her interest in ceramics, Scherer said, dovetailed with the needs of her home-schooled children. Scherer is a mother of five.
“In starting this as a hobby, I used it as part of my home-school curriculum,” she said. “My son was in eighth grade and he had to have art, so that’s on me. Now, my older two are learning all about it, which is awesome. My 11-year-old daughter is probably my biggest help; she pours and checks the thickness.”
Scherer, who has more than 1,000 plaster molds, said she enjoys the process behind her products.
“You use what’s called slip, which is like watery clay, and you pour that into your mold,” she said. “The plaster absorbs the water out of the mold and leaves you with a shell of your piece. Once it’s all dry and it’s taken out of the mold, it’s called greenware. Then it gets fired and it’s called bisqueware, and from there it can be painted with acrylics or glazed and refired; I do both.
“My favorite thing to do is stoneware, because it’s functional pieces, like mugs and pie plates,” she said. “I have (a stoneware pie plate) and they bake fantastic, they’re beautiful and they work well.”
With the holidays approaching, Scherer said, she’s focused on creating season-specific pieces as well as classes.
“I am starting to do classes, with COVID precautions in place,” she said. “I’m planning to list (classes) as events on the (Facebook) page and have people sign up, so I can have all my stuff ready and keep it small, about five people. I’ll have small groups for (making) Christmas trees. They’re huge and people love the lit Christmas trees. And I’m working on turkeys that are going to be glazed … so the bowls (of the turkeys) are food-safe … and we did cute little pumpkins (for Halloween). The pumpkins were jars that could be used for cookies … or as a vase.
“I will also be doing a whole kit and you can come and get it,” Scherer continued, “So, you can take it home and paint it on your own time and bring it back and I’ll fire it.”
Classes, Scherer said, are reigniting widespread interest in ceramics.
“It’s been (crafters) from all around the northern part of the state,” she said. “And (attendees have been) from 16, up to (people in their) 70s. It was kind of a dying art and people are all for it again. It was a big thing in the ‘70s and ‘80s, then it died off and it’s kind of coming back, so that’s fun. And we don’t know of anything like this in the area.”
Beyond classes, Scherer said, she’s been bowled over by customers’ response to Windy Hill.
“I was really very humbled by the response I got. Everything sold locally,” she said. “My intention was to make stuff and sell it on Etsy, but once I threw up the Facebook page and shared it, I listed a few things that I had done and they were gone and then I had orders.
“I had more interest than I could handle,” Scherer said, “so I’m really focusing on custom orders. My hope is, before Christmas, to have a bunch of different things for sale and have more of a shop.”
Scherer said she hopes that momentum can translate, in time, to a retail space for Windy Hill Ceramics.
“My kiln’s not huge, so I’m upgrading so I can fit more pieces,” she said. “But in the future, I do definitely plan to move down into town.”
For more information or class times, find “Windy Hill Ceramics” on Facebook.