Reclaim Clay Collective (ReCC), the first BIPOC, queer, women-owned art studio in the Chinatown International District (CID) opened their doors on May 2.
Co-founders Siera Matsuo and Luanne Wilson opened up the arts studio with the goal of making the arts accessible to underserved communities and using art to bring people together. Members of the studio currently have access to pottery, tools, glazes, and firings as well as other multimedia tools such as a print shop area with a risograph, cricket, and 3D printer.
The collective offers memberships at a sliding scale of $260, $300 or $340 (+ tax) per month, with the hope that more accessible fees might allow underserved communities and people with fewer resources to participate in the studio’s creative options.
“Many people we know have worked with [sliding scale fees], including us, and have experienced it balancing itself out in really good ways,” Wilson said. “It’s just another way to create a system that allows the community to support itself, so people who can pay more are supporting the people that can pay less which helps create a community foundation.”
They are currently at an even three-way split for all their membership levels and have also pledged 10% of their profits to create scholarships for individuals who may need financial support. These awards can be full scholarships or a percentage of full payment depending.
Reclaim Clay Collective will eventually offer a wide variety of classes, from beginner to advanced, in pottery and other mediums.
Both Matsuo and Wilson come from biology backgrounds, using pottery as a way to de-stress, with each finding a passion for it and never looking back. They initially met at another studio where Matsuo worked as a studio tech and Wilson was a member. Wilson ultimately offered up their garage space as a studio during the thick of the pandemic.
“We did that for a little while, but we quickly realized we were missing being around other people,” Matsuo said. “And so I told Luanne that I really wanted to open up a space.”
Coming from Hawaii to Seattle, Matsuo found it challenging to find a community here in Seattle. The pandemic exemplified these feelings and it drove her to establish a creative space for herself. Wilson was inspired by Matsio’s passion and wanted to help out.
“We would often talk about there being something missing, like a shared space when you have a bunch of creatives all in one place with the shared joy of inspiration and learning from each other and really missing that,” Wilson said.
The majority of pottery studios in Seattle are located in North Seattle and their primary demographic consists of white and affluent people.
“I didn’t always necessarily feel the most comfortable,” Matsuo said.
When choosing a location for their studio they chose South Seattle for its accessibility. The CID became the perfect location for them.
“I think when people think of the CID, it’s a lot of just food to them,” Matsuo said. “So having an activity for people to come and stay in the area is cool.”
It took almost three years to move ReCC from a concept to finally opening the studio’s doors in early May. The biggest difference between creating pottery and owning a studio is the shift from focusing on personal art to now running a small business.
So far, Reclaim Clay Collective has received a warm community response. Their opening party featured local vendors and had an attendance of over 500 people, according to Matsuo and Wilson.
“We really wanted it to feel like when you’re a kid and you go to hang out with your friends and you can pick the activity you want to do, and there’s like a lot of options. You just get to like, play and have fun and explore being yourself,” Wilson said. “I think that was a lot of what inspired us in setting up the space internally, and how we want people to feel when they’re in there.”
Down the line, they hope to create a safe and welcoming environment for everybody. The lobby area will eventually have a living room with a couch, library, and kitchenette to have hot pot and other meals or even to host movie nights with their TV and projector.
“We want the studio to feel like our members and everyone who comes through the doors to feel like the studio is theirs just as much as it is ours,” Wilson said.