THE BELL HANGER
As Mountain Arts Pottery celebrates 35 years of being in business, there are some times more than others when we recognize the great hand of God upon our venture. Such was the case this weekend when we went to David’s sister’s orchard in Bigfork, Montana.
In 1980, when we decided to make David’s hobby of making pottery into a business, he really wasn’t very proficient in his throwing skills, so the shapes he chose to make were fairly basic. Mugs, bowls, and simple cork jars were the items he first threw. Then one day, I saw a decorative hanger on a neighbor’s door. In the 80’s, cute and country were king, and this was both. I told David about it, we bought some jute and crafted a hanger similar to the one which I had seen, then added a pottery bell. It seemed fairly impressive at the time, and was one more item that we could add to the list of what we could market.
We were getting ready to do our very first show, the Help Center’s “Festival of the Arts” fundraiser, and put together about ten Bell Hangers and took them to the show. They were selling like proverbial hotcakes and we were out of finished units within an hour. David had many bells thrown and began to put them together for people upon request. Once we realized that we had, perhaps, priced the original ones too low, we raised the price. Over the course of the next three days we put together about two dozen units and raised the price again.
Over the next decade, we made thousands of bells. We ultimately changed the design to three bells on a smaller jute hanger, and David created some amazingly unique tools to help with the efficiency in making so many bells. We contracted the manufacturing of the hangers to Chinese women whose husbands were working toward their degrees at MSU. We made many great friendships with these women and their families, and it was a great opportunity for them to learn a bit more about the society they were now living in, and to earn some money for their families.
So, in getting back to seeing God’s hand at work in our business; hanging on David’s sister’s cabin door was one of our original Bell Hangers. It was ghastly. Certainly, the years had taken their toll on it, but it just wasn’t that attractive. When we looked at it, it was hard to believe the number of them we had sold during a time when the future of our business was only about a month away from extinction, as it was for many years. By the time we discontinued the Bell Hanger design, David was a very good potter and could make anything. All of those years of making bells contributed to his ability to make any shape and the speed at which he was able to make pottery. Remembering those years and the processes that took place is just another example of God’s hand of blessing on Mountain Arts Pottery.
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