The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 20, 2013

The Potter and her Pear Tree

By Lisa Shrewsberry
Lifestyles Editor

— Hmmmm ... is the sound of new worlds beginning.

Mona Goodall was on vacation with her husband in Myrtle Beach when she happened inside a relaxed nursery and art nook that got her thinking “Wow. This is what I want to do when I retire. Hmmmm …”

Now, tucked away in the cozy, growing artist colony at Dove’s Outlet Village in Fayetteville, visitors will find the quaint cottage that represents Mona Goodall’s retirement — and her new beginning.

Goodall, teacher first in life and artist second, held on to a developing dream of a no-pressure art studio bearing her signature if not her name — through 31 years of public school students eager for her to fire the kiln and teach them to throw clay as part of their curriculum. She held fast through raising two children of her own, putting a protective lid on her persistent notion and allowing it to simmer.

Then in 2011, after having spent 28 years as art instructor for Oak Hill High School, Goodall did retire. The only pressure that remained was the promise she had made to herself to do her own thing.

“I found out this place was going to be open,” she said, and so her plans to wait and develop a studio at home and at her leisure succumbed to the potential from U.S. 19 tourists and the highly anticipated Boy Scout Jamboree traffic. “People told me, put ‘WV’ on everything you make. That’s what they’ll be looking for.”

While there is blue and gold aplenty, WVs to spare and bridges to boot on her newest roster, their sum surpasses obligatory souvenirs to form a noteworthy gallery of inventory. Both her creations and those of 30 other art and crafts consignors are what she collectively counts on for stock.

Nearing the March first anniversary of the business she named Pear Tree Arts & Garden, Goodall’s retirement has become a continuing education in the art of business.

“I realized I couldn’t do all the inventory myself,” she admitted, displaying the wares of others whose art needed a nesting place, including a retired shop teacher who was once her colleague in education. Still, when demand calls for what have moved to the forefront as her most popular pieces — mosaic stones for display or garden and her trademark slumped bottles — she meets it as well as can one woman.

“My fingers were all cut up and as sore as they could be,” she stated, describing the tiny nicks and scrapes she gave herself cutting the glass to meet last season’s orders for custom stones — the New River Gorge Bridge, sports teams, breast cancer awareness and shelves of other cement circles enshrouded in luminescent shards. The process can take up to one to two days of work for each sealed and weatherproofed stone, depending upon the intricacy of the design. She sells each for around $40.

“If I could’ve made 20 more this winter, I would’ve sold them all.”

Her second most popular item is one she herself conceived— handpainted kiln-slumped bottles.

“People found out I did this and started bringing me boxes of bottles.”

She melts the glass containers in her kiln and paints them on back, repurposing them into beautifully unusual serving trays and spoon holders.

Supply may come at the heels of demand, but pottery holds her by the hand.

Equipped with a used kiln she serendipitously secured from a woman at church who no longer fired ceramics, Goodall fires her shaped clay into vases, bowls and teapots, all ready for display or home use.

“The teapots take the longest,” she explained. Each is composed of three pieces shaped separately  before firing.

Her borrowed potter’s wheel is from a student so enchanted with the art from taking Goodall’s class that she continued it in college.

Once a teacher, always a teacher. Sometimes, a gardener, too.

Goodall’s paint-your-own pottery corner now includes birthday parties for up to eight inside, with infinite possibilities in warmer weather. She also takes her glazes on the road for women’s groups and other gatherings needing an activity.

“I do pottery classes for kids ages 5 through 12 beginning around March.”

Her newest idea is for a hands-on experience in pottery for her betrothed customers. “We would like to do (pre-)wedding parties, where each (attendant or shower guest) paints a plate or a bowl for the bride.”

In a couple of months, a third layer will bloom to enhance her retail and art venture — the botanical component of Pear Tree Arts & Garden. The avid gardener charmed guests by giving each of her first ones a pansy cultivated from seed at last year’s grand opening. She plans on doing the same for customers this year, when she kicks off her season of selling perennial plants and herbs, all grown from seed, in late May.

It is, after all, her green thumb, not the one caked in clay, inspiring her business’ name.

“When I first thought about opening my own place, and we were thinking about doing it at our home, I thought of our trees. We have ornamental pear trees lining the walkway and I just went, hmmmm …”

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Pear Tree Arts & Garden is located at Dove’s Outlet Village, U.S. 19 and Hinkle Road, Fayetteville.

Upcoming Pottery Classes at Pear Tree

Tuesday, Jan. 29; 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 2; 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

Monday, Feb. 4; 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Monday Feb., 11; 10 a.m. - noon

Saturday Feb. 16; 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 19; 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Call 304-575-3730 for more information.