The Clayground is closing, but Rebecca's future is open

After 12 years in business, The Clayground will be closing in February 2019. The current owner and co-founder, Rebecca Bresnick, couldn’t be happier about the new directions she and the retail space are heading.
Photo by Rosemary Hemenway

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After 12 years in business, The Clayground will be closing in February 2019. The current owner and co-founder, Rebecca Bresnick, couldn’t be happier about the new directions she and the retail space are heading. If, in 2007, someone had asked Rebecca Bresnick what she thought The Clayground would become, she wouldn’t have known what to say. She might have answered that she never intended to open a business, or that she has always hated being asked about her “five-year plan.” She has never been the type to make a long term career plan. She was studying to become an immigration lawyer at the UC Davis School of Law when she took her first ceramics class, and became so enamored with it that she changed her career trajectory entirely. After that she worked an artist and a teacher. Eventually she decided to partner with another artist to open a studio space in Winters. What they created was a staple of downtown businesses and successful retail store.   Now that it’s ending, she wants people to know that she has no regrets. “I’m excited,” Bresnick says of her choice to close the business she and Shannon Moore opened over a decade ago. Bresnick and Moore opened Clayground shortly after they met in 2006. They were looking to open a studio space for themselves, with a small shop included. Everything fell together, and they got a space downtown. “We met and opened a business within three months,” Bresnick says of the process. “It’s like marrying a stranger.” Luckily for the two of them, they became close friends as they worked together in the studio. They hosted classes and birthday parties in the studio while selling their work in The Clayground’s small retail section. Over the years the retail section had to expand into the studio. Work from professional artists and crafting hobbyists alike began to fill the store. Bresnick says that as The Clayground expanded she had to give more energy to the business, leaving less for her art. Moore eventually moved into a smaller studio space nearby. Bresnick continued at The Clayground with the help of a network of artists and volunteers who have also fallen for the space. Bresnick always considered The Clayground to be a success by what she considers the most important benchmarks: its doors are open and it isn’t in debt. She is ready to leave the business behind and turn her energy back to her art. “My future is opening up again,” Bresnick says. “I don’t feel untethered. I feel completely free.” But she still loves what The Clayground became not only for her, but for countless people she’s spoken with over the years. “I love that I’ve met so many people who are now my good friends,” Bresnick says. She remembers multiple times people came into The Clayground only to run into someone they hadn’t seen in years. College students would come in and say that they remembered having a birthday party in the studio as elementary school kids. Bresnick enjoys introducing people to ceramics. She has given classes to students ranging from children to adults. The one rule she made for every age: no negative self talk. She hates to see people tear themselves down because they don’t think their art is “good enough.” She says that it’s so satisfying when people love what they’ve made. She wants them to see that even if it isn’t “perfect,” it is good. Bresnick says that there have been a number of times that she met a student with a natural talent for ceramics. After class she would take a minute to ask the child’s teacher to continue to encourage them. But she knows that talent alone isn’t everything. “I’m not one of those people who was suddenly good at it,” Bresnick says of her art. “I had to practice.” Now Bresnick will continue in her home studio. She is looking forward to being in charge of only herself and taking more time for travelling. She is planning a trip to visit her oldest son, who will be studying abroad in New Zealand, with her younger son and her sister. Aside from a little globetrotting, Bresnick intends to keep her work in Winters. “I’m not going anywhere,” Bresnick says. She plans to continue making custom pieces and hopes to host studio sales in her driveway. Her work will also be found in the business that is taking over her lease. While the new business would like to remain anonymous until after the holidays, Bresnick can say that they are a small regional business, and that she is excited to see what the space will become. For now, Bresnick is gearing up for The Clayground’s last Holiday sale. “I am inviting my participating artists and artisans to bring in as much work as possible so that you have a chance to get those things that you can’t find elsewhere,” Bresnick says in her most recent newsletter. “If you have had your eye on something in the shop, or want to stock up on your favorite items, now is the time.” Bresnick wants people to know that for her, this decision is a happy one. She is looking forward to regaining the freedom she had before the business opened. She is ready to challenge herself to make a living off of the work she makes with her two hands. “It just feels right,” she says.]]>

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