Desert Sun Ceramics is a working pottery studio just south of Moab’s City limits. One step in the door, and you will see shelves displaying bowls, mugs, pitchers, pots and other ceramic items of varying colors and glazes, under a sign that reads “Gregoire Pottery.” The creator is Barb Gregoire, and she is also the founder and owner of Desert Sun Ceramics.
“The great thing about Desert Sun Ceramics is the community of people who belong here,” said Gregoire during an interview at the studio.
Desert Sun Ceramics is open to novices and experts alike. Their mission is “to provide a creative, inspirational learning environment where everyone can explore the wonderful nature of clay.” Group lessons for all skill levels are held regularly, and there are periodic workshops to teach particular skills and techniques in depth. Barb is often the instructor. Experienced potters may become “associate members” who have 24/7 access to the shared studio space and tools of the craft, such as the pottery wheels, kilns, slab roller, and clay extruder. Some associate members sell their work from the studio, and others from Moab Made, a store on Moab’s Main Street that features locally made crafts.
Barb has been doing and teaching pottery for decades. She started her “journey in clay” during the late 1970s at the University of Wyoming, and continued while raising two daughters and teaching elementary school. Since 2008 she has been pursuing pottery full time as an artist and teacher. Her work has been featured in galleries in Colorado and Utah.
Barb and her husband Jim moved to Moab from Steamboat Springs, CO in July of 2016. They were drawn in by Moab’s warmer climate, the many running and biking events, good camping spots, and because it was only a day’s drive to see family in Colorado. In November of the same year, she opened Desert Sun Ceramics.
“When I found this place, it was immediately, yes,” Barb said of picking the location for her business.
The studio is one large, open floor room with a high ceiling. Shelves line the perimeter; some are used by individual artists, while others store the shared tools, equipment, and raw materials. There are several work tables and larger pottery accouterments. It is spacious enough to accommodate all the items and the people using them, without crossing the line from cozy to crowded.
On one table, there is a stack of lively colored ceramic bowls, each a unique work of art. A sign next to it indicates the bowls are for the Second Annual Soup Bowl Fundraiser. Local restaurants will donate soup to fill four hundred bowls made here in the studio, and attendees will pay $20 for a bowl of soup, and get to keep the bowl. All proceeds go to support a Moab non-profit. Last year, the studio raised $7,000 for the Youth Garden Project, an organization that provides educational programming to kids and community events to further their mission of “connecting people with food from seed to table.” This year, all funds will go to Seekhaven, a shelter for women and children escaping violence. The fundraiser will be held at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on November 3 at 5pm.
While Desert Ceramics is a successful business, Barb recently thought she may have to close it. After the unexpected passing of her husband last year, Barb decided she wanted to spend more time with her grandkids and be less tied down to her work.
She said she wanted to find “someone who can be here full time, who has the passion I did”. But, at first, no one came forward to carry the mantle. Then, a young, local Moab woman, Hayley Knouff, said she was interested.
Hayley was born and raised in Moab. She did some ceramics at Grand County High School, but she hadn’t expected to continue. Her creativity was channeled primarily into photography, painting, and woodworking. She left Moab to attend college in Michigan, where she studied geology, and lived in Salt Lake City for a while. Hayley came back to Moab a few years ago, intending to look into graduate schools, and started making ceramics at Desert Sun. “Once I found this community, creative endeavors became part of my life again,” Hayley said.
When looking for her successor, Barb “put the feelers out to the inner-circle community here,” Hayley said. But with no one stepping up into the main leadership position, Hayley received a text from Barb earlier this year that read, “Just a reminder, we’re going to be wrapping things up in January.”
Hayley said thinking of Moab without Desert Sun Ceramics made her sad. “I grew up in this town,” Hayley said. “But it’s such a transient community.” The studio made her feel like she had “roots” in the town and “support as an artist.” She started to consider purchasing Desert Sun.
“I thought, well, what do I have to lose? I’ll talk to Barb about the details. Maybe it’s not so much of a pipe dream as I thought,” Haley said.
Haley is now in training to take over for Barb in January 2019. “I feel so positive about Hayley being successful here,” Barb said, adding that she will continue to support Haley and teach classes at the studio.
A new lineup of classes is set to begin in October. You may contact the studio with questions, or to purchase tickets for the Soup Bowl Fundraiser.
1320 S Highway 191
Tuesday: 10am – 4pm
Wednesday: 10am – 4pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Fridays: 12pm – 8pm
Saturday: 12pm – 7:30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 7:30pm
Other times by appointment or chance (look for the open sign)