Bringing People & Ceramics Together
Photos | Emma Highfill, Rose Wheat Photography
Monette Mark loves ceramics. And she loves people. She felt like these two should be able to come together more often.
“I wanted this medium to be available to a wider variety of people,” Monette says. “For those who wouldn’t normally have access to it, especially those who need it.”
For many, making pottery is a form of therapy. It is relaxing and cathartic—a stress reliever as well as a form of self-expression.
“Not everyone believes they can paint or draw, but clay is easier for them,” Monette says. “If you mess up clay, you can squish it up and start over. Clay is very forgiving.”
And so Monette took that dream of bringing people and ceramics together and began one of the of newest additions to the ever-growing NOTO Arts & Entertainment District, Fire Me Up Ceramics & Fine Art Studios.
Monette had already done the big city business thing as a successful graphic designer. She wanted a change of pace and decided to return to her Topeka roots. She finished her Master’s in Fine Arts with an emphasis on ceramics and painting at Washburn University and then taught there for eight years after her graduation. But she still wanted more people in the community to be able to join in the creation of art.
NOTO was the logical place for her new business. She had friends throughout the area and was drawn to the flourishing arts district. Monette bought the building at 1000 N. Kansas Ave. in November 2018 and immediately had other artists ready to join her in the space. Construction was—and is— still underway, but they were not deterred by the scope of the project. Instead, the artists quickly joined together to form a sort of co-op where everyone helps one another.
“It has been so touching the way people have been incredibly supportive,” she says. “This place is just as much theirs as it is mine because they have put so much work into it.”
This collaborative spirit embodies the spirit of NOTO—a community where everyone does what they can to support one another. There is a true sharing of resources, services and knowledge. Whether it involves trading, bartering or simply giving, they take care of one another.
“Everyone is a good neighbor,” Monette said. “We truly want this to succeed. We all are happy for each other when something good happens.”
Fire Me Up Ceramics & Fine Art Studios currently houses studio and shelf rentals for ceramic and mixed media artists. On that side of the space are numerous pottery wheels and kilns, as well as tables and booths for the artists. On the other side, an art gallery features paintings, pottery and other pieces from local artists. There is a large common area for classes and events.
Whether throwing on the wheel or hand building, there are opportunities
for all ages and skill levels. Monthly events include First
Friday Art Walk and Ceramic Demonstrations, Final Friday Get Dirty with Your Date Night, and Third Thursday Wine and Wheel. The studio offers numerous ceramics classes, including summer sessions and other special events. Monette also offers lessons for disabled veterans and community groups, such as Girl Scouts and
“It is amazing how people can express themselves,” Monette says. “It helps them to open up and makes them feel better.”
One of Monette’s next projects is to offer products made from the ’51 flood clay in the basement of her building. Now who could resist that historic mug for their collection?