Off to Work ... with Tammy Katz, who's gone entrepreneurial with her art
by Bill Edwards
Star Staff Writer
Mar 07, 2011 | 4230 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tammy Katz, right, co-owner of Still Mid-Town Ceramics, teaches Thomas Kelly, center, and his mother, Jackie Sawyer, her craft at her Anniston business. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Tammy Katz, right, co-owner of Still Mid-Town Ceramics, teaches Thomas Kelly, center, and his mother, Jackie Sawyer, her craft at her Anniston business. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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The newest way for family members to enjoy time together doesn’t involve anything electronic, anything loaded with calories or anything that makes them sweat.

It’s painting — specifically painting three-dimensional pieces of art at an Anniston business called Still Mid-Town Ceramics.

So when Tammy Katz goes off to work as its co-owner, she likes to keep things casual. The visitor to her downtown Anniston store might even encounter a “greeter” — the house dog, a 20-year-old rescue mix named Bruno.

“Walmart has theirs, I have mine,” quipped Katz.

The business, which Katz co-owns with her husband, Keith, contains elements of both a factory and an art studio.

It’s like a factory because of the volume of raw materials in storage ready to be transformed into consumer goods. These include many shelves and many pallets piled high with plaster of Paris molds.

There are thousands of these molds. Tons and tons of them. More than 300 Santa Claus molds alone.

“These things are like my babies,” Katz said, meaning her connection to them is more than utilitarian. One batch came from the retired foundryman who had begun the business in the mid-1970s, Ed Scott. He started it in a small house on 18th Street, then moved it to L Street in south Anniston. Katz acquired the molds when she acquired the business following Scott’s death in 2003.

(She placed the word “Still” in front of Scott’s original name for legal reasons, Katz explained.)

The other batch came from a woman who had bought them herself for her own art studio and for use in art classes in Anniston public schools in the 1990s.

The molds went to Katz because the woman, Brenda Williams, wanted to entrust them to someone who would put them to good use after she left the business.

They are currently stored in the vast expanse of the second floor of the century-old building at 13th and Noble where Still Mid-Town Ceramics has its home.

The more molds a ceramics business has, the better, because molds have a limited shelf life. After one is repeatedly filled with liquid clay, called “slip,” and cooked in an electric kiln for 12 hours at 1,900 to 2,200 degrees, its fine details — such as feathers on an Indian headdress — do wear away.

It’s in those fine details, and the work that goes into bringing them to life with paint, where one finds elements of an art studio.

And the artisans can be just about anyone. With family members and friends serving as her staff, Katz teaches classes twice a month. The same topic is dealt with for 2 1/2 hours on a Friday night or a Wednesday morning, to allow for as many different schedule variations as is practical.

Class topics, Katz said, have included “How to Paint with Chalk,” “How to Make Birdhouses” and “How to Make Clay Jewelry.” She also offers instruction in how to make pottery at a wheel.

Once seated in the bright light of the store’s front window, on mismatched tables and chairs — “you’re supposed to feel like you’re at home at your kitchen table,” Katz said — patrons have virtually unlimited choice in how they want to paint their ceramics.

“My teenagers are a wonder at that — they have imaginations that just don’t quit,” she said.

Patrons with a practical bent are accommodated, too. They can make a clock or a lamp, for example, knowing that they can take home a finished product.

“I make sure whatever I sell them, I have the (interior parts) to finish it,” Katz said.

Other services her business offers include sale of completely finished products, arranging birthday parties for children, helping homeschoolers meet art curriculum requirements and helping Boy or Girl Scouts meet craft skill requirements.

“We’re one big happy family,” Katz said.

If you know of anyone who’ll talk about what he or she does for a living, or if you are such a person yourself, drop a line to bedwards@annistonstar.com for a possible write-up in “Off to Work.”
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