For Meredith McCord, looking at a piece of pottery brings back decades worth of memories. McCord started The Mad Potter in 1998, and since those early days, she's used her kiln to immortalize countless special moments. She traveled to hospitals to capture the footprints of newborns, helped a young man create a dessert plate with the words "Will you marry me?" emblazoned across it, and auctioned off items for charity. Yet some of her fondest memories center on the day-to-day interactions with customers, specifically when they return to pick up their fired pieces and utter three words of amazement: "I did that?"
The Mad Potter has since expanded into three Houston-area locations, where children and adults come to paint their own works of art or create replicas of their ancient ancestors' garden gnomes. More than 500 bisqueware items line the shelves of each studio, including coffee mugs, plates, and figurines. Staffers then help visitors select from more than 54 available colors of paint and supply them with everything else they might need, including brushes and stencils. The staff can even take things over and create more intricate designs?while still consulting closely with the customer. Whatever route a person chooses, there's always time for a sip of wine or beer; the River Oaks location sells wine and beer while Bellaire and Woodway maintain a BYOB policy.
For nearly a decade, Camargo Trading Company owner Meggan Sulfsted has sought out designer jewelry, hand-poured candles, and other little luxuries that infuse a home or an outfit with personal style. But she isn’t only shopping for herself—she stocks these items in her boutique, which she operates out of a charming, multi-storied structure in Madeira. There, shoppers can take a look at the store’s aromatic bath products and its Longchamp and Botkier handbags, then decide whether they should buy something for themselves or get a gift for their future alter-egos. They can also find plush toys, chenille blankets, and children’s clothing.
As a British expat, tea is something Kathleen Kern takes very seriously. She's traveled the world in search of the finest tisanes and blends, bringing back from her journeys the knowledge?and products?that make Churchill's Fine Teas distinctive. It's Churchill's eclectic stock that led to it being honored for the Best Tea Selection by CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati's voters in 2014.
With more than 250 teas to choose from, the possibilities are seemingly endless, and tea aficionados and newbies alike can both explore, learn, and, of course, drink tea. For those interested in learning more about the many nuances of brews, classes and tastings illuminate subjects ranging from creating custom tea blends to pairing tea with chocolate.
A kaleidoscope of designer fabrics in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures exists just behind Swatches' unassuming brick storefront. For more than 35 years, this locally owned and operated business has assembled a massive collection of fabrics and accessories from workrooms based in Cincinnati and around the United States. Within the showroom’s expansive interior, trims and tassels sway alongside more than 1,000 bolts of fabric from designers such as Duralee, Kravet, and Fabricut. Meanwhile, the staff of seasoned home decorators stands by to assist customers, offering them counsel on appropriate design schemes or directing them toward textiles that can withstand messes made by kids, pets, and roommates who work as part-time finger-painters.
From behind a pair of baby grand pianos, two pianists take audience requests each Friday and Saturday night at The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, urging the crowd to sing along in a display of musical showmanship. The ivory ticklers hail from all over the country and belt out popular tunes from the past 50 years that they’ve memorized by heart or tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. Onlookers seated at tables around the stage or nestled into plush couches in the lounge sip cocktails, quaff brews, and dive into salty snacks. Although the show runs on Fridays and Saturdays, drinks specials pop up each night and salsa-night Wednesdays promise copious amounts of hip shaking.
For 50 years, the owners and staffers of Plaza Artist Materials & Picture Framing have encouraged the artists of their community. They visit local fairs and set up booths for kids to color and craft, and they workshops, demos, and classes for artists of every age. As their name implies, they also outfit art makers of all skill levels with top-of-the-line materials, such as Gamblin oil paints, Prismacolor pens and markers, and custom frames perfect for saving a favorite art pieces or memorializing a sibling's failure to color within the lines.