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All Fired Up: Studio customers find talent at their fingertips

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

For the last three months Carla Minervini has spent her days helping people embrace their creativity.

She owns and runs All Fired Up, a studio at the Island Shops where customers go to paint their own pottery and have it professionally fired and glazed. With a background in menswear design, which she parlayed into interior design when she moved to the Pawleys Island area, it’s not something she ever expected to be doing.

But she finds she loves it.

Minervini was inspired to open the studio during a visit to her eldest daughter, a graduate student at the University of Florida, last June. Her daughter suggested one afternoon that they go paint pottery, an activity Minervini had participated in with all four of her children years ago, when they were small.

“I had two hours with her I hadn’t had in 24 years,” Minervini said. “There were no distractions, no telephones, I wasn’t needed by anybody. It was the best time and as I was painting with her and enjoying the moment, I thought ‘Pawleys Island needs a place like this.’ It’s not so much about selling pottery. You can buy this stuff anywhere. It was selling that experience I had – the bonding and the quiet time I had with her.”

The idea stuck with her when she came back home and more ideas just kept coming.

“I just went with it,” she said. “I came home and never said a word to anybody about it. I just started the initial steps and opened the business on Oct. 1. That’s what makes me know everything about this is meant to be.”

The studio welcomes a range of clientele. Parents bring their kids in to spend time together. It serves as a site for children’s birthday parties, as well as bridal and baby showers. And every Thursday evening is Ladies Night, where women are invited to bring a bottle of wine, get a 20 percent discount on pottery and enjoy “wine and design.”

Minervini loves watching customers of all ages realize the joy of creating something beautiful, but seeing kids have that moment of discovery is truly special.

“They don’t know what it’s going to look like when it’s finished,” she said. “It goes from being chalky and this nothing color to glossy and vibrant and beautiful. I wish I could snap a picture of their faces every time when they see what they’ve created. It almost brings tears to my eyes.”

She has regular workshops for kids to teach them new techniques for pottery painting. “So far it’s just been little girls. They have a ball in here and I teach them an age appropriate technique,” she said.

She also works with adults who come in when they need it. She often finds they’re overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of taking a completely blank piece and turning it into something special.

“They say ‘I’m not artistic or I can’t paint’ and I say ‘neither can I,’ ” Minervini said. Then she shows them the samples she has created, even though she has no formal training and doesn’t consider herself a painter.

She helps them come up with ideas if they want and teaches them techniques for applying color and shows them how to use the different paint brushes for the best effect.

Usually, they end up loving it and coming back again and again.

“I had a lady who was very standoffish and unsure. She came in and painted only with her finger,” Minervini recalled. “She said she wasn’t a painter and wouldn’t touch a brush, but she created this beautiful vase.”

The woman has since graduated to using brushes and she comes in faithfully once a week, spending hours painting gifts for friends and family.

Minervini loves seeing the confidence that woman and many like her have developed in her studio.

“It’s not so much about ability,” Minervini said. “Everybody has the ability. It’s just about getting them to relax and understand you can’t ruin it. Don’t be intimidated by the process. They find it therapeutic.”

Minervini doesn’t have any employees yet. She’s doing everything herself, opening at 10 a.m. most days and staying until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 9 p.m. on Fridays and 5 p.m. on Saturdays. She’s open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays and is closed Mondays.

She’ll expand her hours for the tourist season starting in March.

The cost to paint is $6 for kids 12 and under and $8 for adults, including use of the space, paints and other materials in the studio. The only other cost is the price of the item selected for painting.

Her location at the Island Shops is the first she looked at.

“I didn’t look around and I didn’t lament over things. It was so perfect. It spoke to me,” she said.

And it’s proving to have been a good choice.

“People come in and say, ‘oh, I’m so glad you’re here,’ then they tell me about a place they’ve done this before,” she said. “Moms who get their hair cut at Devon’s [next door] pass by and stop in and say they’ll have to bring the kids in.”

Minervini couldn’t be happier with how things have worked out and said the ideas have kept coming. She’s hoping to introduce a number of new programs in the coming months, including a summer camp for kids.

It has all left her with no doubt she’s right where she’s supposed to be and doing exactly what she’s meant for.

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