Gillian Fitzgerald | Staff Writer
Pottery, canvas, glass, oh my!
At Kolor-N-Kiln, located in the Robinson Mall, there’s not much you can’t paint or create.
The mother-daughter duo, Jeaniane and Alyson Blackburn, opened up their pottery studio in 2012 as a way to spend more time together through something they love doing.
The Pittsburgh natives used to paint pottery as a hobby when Alyson was younger, and as soon as she was out of college it became a business opportunity for the two of them.
“I had just retired from my corporate job and really didn’t know what I was going to do, and it just came up in casual conversation about opening a business together. She kept going, ‘Mom, I thought we were going to do this,’” Jeaniane said. “I retired in February, April we had a conversation and in June, voila, we opened our business.”
The fast track to their studio was the perfect way to make it happen. And now, the familial experiences at the store are a reflection of their desire for customers to feel at home during their time at Kolor-N-Kiln.
Not only has the pottery studio brought Jeaniane and Alyson closer, it also brings others together.
“There are other pottery painting places around, but the one thing we know that we’re known for is our friendly, family-like environment. People come into our store, and they come back over and over again — we have made so many friends,” Jeaniane said.
Jeaniane is proud to be known for their welcoming atmosphere, especially considering how crucial yet challenging it can be for small businesses to create a customer base when first starting out.
Kolor-N-Kiln moved from its previous location in a small strip mall to a larger studio in Robinson, so they had to learn who their audience is and depend on their growing customer base as they settled into their current studio. No matter the space they’ve been in, the staff has been able to connect with their customers while remaining one of only two minority-owned pottery studios in the area.
As a small-Black owned business, they are always excited to see different artists coming into the store and the amazing things they create — whether it be mosaics, wood paintings or their new clay-building creations coming in the summer.
“We don’t shy away from the fact that we are a minority-owned business. We celebrate that, because we know that we are one of the only two minority-owned paint-your-own pottery studios around doing everything that we do,” Jeaniane said.
The two women constantly celebrate the diverse backgrounds of their customers and staff. And during Black History Month, Kolor-N-Kiln is using its Instagram and Facebook to highlight Black artists by sharing facts and profiles throughout history.
Different types of techniques or styles can easily get passed around or claimed by people as their own. By showcasing the achievements and methods of Black artists, followers on social media are able to learn more about historical sculptors and painters that they may not know about.
“We always want to make sure that when people come in, they have some type of inspiration by letting them know about different artists and different techniques,” Jeaniane said.
That inspiration in art is important for Jeaniane personally, but it’s also important for her as a business owner. Just as Jeaniane was inspired by her daughter Alyson to start Kolor-N-Kiln, her inspiration and passion to succeed also comes from a simple piece of advice: Dream big.
“As a minority business owner, you have to dream big and think out of the box. Dream as big as you can, and look for opportunities or niches where no one else is really traveling that way and put your own spin on it,” Jeaniane said.
She encourages others to follow their dreams and make them a reality, while creating a space for people to express themselves at Kolor-N-Kiln. She hopes the creation of their pottery studio will leave a legacy for Alyson’s future family.
“My favorite thing about being one of the owners is that I am leaving a legacy for my daughter,” Jeaniane said. “For her and I to do this together … and one day, when I’m gone, she’ll be able to tell her children about this.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article noted that the business moved its studio four times. It has only moved locations once. The Duke apologizes for this error.