Lara Craddock has never been afraid to follow a dream. She opened The Fire Playce as a mobile party business in 2012, practically on a whim.
Story and picture originally published in Taos News
“That year, in the summer, I visited a paint-your-own-pottery studio in South Dakota,” she said. “I had never been to one and had the best time ever. I decided then that I wanted to open one in Pueblo, where I was living then.”
It sounded like an unlikely move: for the last seven years Craddock had been working for a car dealership.
“But I was stuck in an office and not getting to be creative,” she said. “I have been active in community theatre for about twenty-five years and really needed to do something in which I could not only create, but express myself and help others to do so.”
Much to the dismay of everyone in her life, she cashed in her savings and 401K and, with the help of her sister-in-law, started the mobile business.
“Within nine months, I quit the dealership and opened a store front,” she concluded.
The business became so popular that in the first year it got five “Best of Pueblo” awards.
“I had many incredible customers,” Craddock said. “I couldn’t go anywhere and not have a little person come up, give me a hug and say ‘Hi, Pottery Lady!’”
Craddock was happy with her business, but then she met and fell in love with a Taoseño, Mike Velar. As the relationship progressed, she fell in love with Taos as well.
“I really enjoy waking up and being surrounded by the mountains,” she said. “And these sunsets are just mesmerizing.”
After selling the Pueblo business to one of her closest friends, who had also worked for her, Craddock started looking for a location in Taos. She found the perfect one in Paseo del Pueblo, across from Randall Lumber, and opened The Fire Playce in mid-April this year.
Products and services
A certified Feng Shui consultant, Craddock has made the “playce” welcoming and warm. There are bright colors everywhere, shelves brimming with whimsical ornaments and a number of tables with everything clients need to create, in groups or by themselves. They can also see samples of finished pieces.
Craddock has dinnerware and collectibles—all sorts of figurines, from frogs, angels and butterflies to aliens, mirrors and mugs.
“After the customer paints the piece, we glaze and fire it,” she said.
But the process may take several days. She soon realized that she needed to keep up with the tourists who are only in town for a short time.
“We do offer shipping, but we wanted to have things that they could take with them right away,” she said. “We then started to offer acrylic paints that do not need to be fired.”
Craddock recently added mosaic projects to the studio materials.
“The mosaics have been a wonderful addition,” she said. “The customers put the mosaic piece together in the studio and we send them home with grout to finish the project. Or, for a nominal fee, we will grout and finish it for them.”
Usually, customers complete their projects in a couple of hours, though sometimes it takes two or three visits.
“I just pack up their piece and they can come in and work on it when they have the time,” she said. “I do have people who will spend five or six hours in the studio. There is no time limit.”
She also sells “To Go Boxes” (they include five colors of glaze, bisque and brushes) for those who prefer to paint in the comfort of their own home.
Fun for everyone
The studio activities are designed for people of all ages.
“I have adults that just come in for a little quiet time and stress relief,” Craddock said. “The kids love it too. I hear from parents all the time that their children would come in every day if they could.”
Those who don’t consider themselves artistically inclined can count on Craddock to teach them some simple techniques.
“We have a lot of fun things like stamps, stencils and sponges to help with designs,” she said. “Everyone likes blowing bubbles on their pieces too! Even if you have never picked up a paint brush before, you can leave with an amazing masterpiece. And that is the reason I do this—the look of pure pride on the customers’ face when they pick up their pieces.”
She has noticed that so many more men come in and paint here in Taos than in her Pueblo store.
“Maybe because art is so accepted here,” she said. “I had a few regulars that were men in Pueblo, but I even have guys sneak in here on their lunch hour to paint.”
The studio, that can seat about 40 painters, can also be used for birthday parties, team building, youth groups church groups and field trips. Craddock offers before and after hour party rentals.
“I hope that it becomes a favorite place for locals and visitors,” she said. “We really want to be a part of this community.”
The Fire Playce is located at 308 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM 87571
Phone: (575) 751-7250
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.