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North state ceramic studio opens Chico factory, store |

North state ceramic studio opens Chico factory, store

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CHICO — In this day of social media, a business doesn’t need to be under its customers’ noses in order to operate successfully, and Alex Marshall is the perfect example.

Having come from the East Coast, Alex Marshall started a wholesale ceramic dinnerware business in Sausalito, and recently relocated her factory from Corning to Chico.

The retail store at Alex Marshall Studios includes custom pieces and items not on the website. (Bill Husa — Enterprise-Record)

In addition to her factory, at 1095 Nelson St., she has tucked a retail store into one corner. The business is adjacent to Chico Ceramics Center, which offers classes and supplies.

Much of her business comes from Instagram, and business is done over the internet. Having settled in Corning, she decided to move the factory to Chico.  While various local retailers have carried her products, including Chico’s Zucchini and Vine, she’s gathering her sales to her showroom at the factory.

Her line includes handcrafted dinnerware, mugs, vases, bowls, lamps, and baby dishes. The factory shop also includes custom pieces not on the website, and pieces at discounted prices from her web store.

Alex Marshall (bottom left) and her husband Andrew Barry work with Ryan Ramos (top right) and production manager in training Kirsten Springer at the factory. (Bill Husa — Enterprise-Record)

Nationally, between 60 and 80 stores carry her lines, which are set apart by their shapes and sizes, along with colors and designs.

Marshall works with her husband, Andrew Barry, who handles the tech and computer tasks, along with the accounting. The couple continue to reside in Corning, where their home is in the middle of olive orchards which was a draw to the area, along with home prices. There is also one employee, from Corning, Ryan Ramos, who is known for his Corning library mural.

All her wares come from plaster molds she created and then fills with liquid clay. The molds absorb the moisture, leaving a hardened – but  fragile – shell. After the seams are smoothed out, the piece is fired at a high temperature, then glazed and fired again. The new factory allowed the couple to move two kilns down from Corning, and then purchase a much larger one.

What Marshall likes about her line is its striking beauty, as well as its versatility. She has created designs that she feels are useful in any household, as well as functional.

Her lines have changed since she started selling in 2000, becoming lighter, and more functional, reflecting changes her distributors and customers have suggested, as well as what her intuition tells her.

An example is her  popular “ripple plates” — square plates whose edges are gently rippled.

From back east

Growing up in New Jersey and spending her early career on the East Coast, Marshall credits her grandmother for her appreciation of art design, and mentoring. After visiting a friend in Marin, she decided to relocate, gaining a masters degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. Alex Marshall Studios was established in Sausalito. The couple’s shift to Corning in 2004 came after the “hassle” and expense of the Bay Area got to be too much. They ran into Nan Tofannelli of Chico’s Nantucket at show in Atlanta and started thinking about the north state. A friend had moved to Red Bluff, so they found new opportunities to buy that hadn’t been in the Bay Area.

Seeking new markets, the retail store and factory in Chico puts the business closer to new customers, including those who enjoy stylish living and entertaining,

“Instagram has moved us into a more visual world. People enjoying styling their homes,” she said.

Having researched her market, Marshall believes her line represents value to her customers in its simplicity and what it brings to tables and homes in her unique designs.

And she’s been able to increase her designs by coupling pieces. For example a globe-shaped vase topped by a creamer and a refashioned handle becomes a pitcher. The globe shape also becomes the base for a lamp.

Along with the business relocation to Chico, the couple hope to become more involved in the community as well.

Settling into the new location, Marshall is starting to think about new products.

“Every season, there’s something new. I listen to what customers say, what they like, their suggestions,” she notes. “There might be a new color or a new way I layer on glazes.”

Category: Dinnerware  Tags: ,  Comments off
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