This month's feature................
Fireborn Studios’ Dan Vito gains visibility with new holiday gallery at SouthSide Works
Fireborn @ The Works
Pittsburgh potter Dan
Vito is trying something new.
Although he’s a regular fixture in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood, working daily at his Fireborn Studios and Gallery on 24th and Sarah, he just added a second, and much more visible, gallery – in the heart of the busy SouthSide Works, east of Carson Street.
The new gallery opening fulfills a long-held dream.
"I was out in San Francisco in 1973, walking around the Fisherman’s Wharf," Vito says. "Right out on the main drag, in the middle of all the shops and restaurants on the wharf, there was a potter with his own store and in the back you could see him working and even see his kiln. I was fascinated. And from that point on, I’ve wanted to portray the hands-on aspect of the life of a craftsmen."
The highly visible location of the new gallery will help Vito do that because he will have wheel-throwing demonstrations right inside the front window. Since hundreds of people walk by every day, he’s likely to draw crowds of people who want to watch something they may never have seen before.
In October, Vito was taking a break from his work and walked by an empty storefront at the SouthSide Works. Inspired by the bustling street traffic, he decided to take the plunge and finally give a separate gallery a try. His store, which he named Fireborn @ The Works, is located at 523 S. 27th Street, just down the street from LA Fitness and American Eagle. It opened early in November and will operate through the end of December, capitalizing on the holiday shopping market.
Vito has been in the retail side of the business for 28 years on the corner of 24th and Sarah streets on the South Side. The gallery occupies a former corner storefront in a residential area, one block from Carson Street. Although it is a great building for a studio, it lacks "main street" visibility.
Since 1985, he and his wife Donna Hetrick have worked together creating functional bowls and dinnerware finished with their characteristic glazes. Their workspace, Fireborn Studios, offers space for their pottery classes and houses Fireborn Gallery where their work, along with the work of a variety of other artists, is offered for sale.
"It actually works quite well for sales," he says, "because I am there all the time, I can be working in the studio and when the doorbell rings, I show off the gallery and give studio tours. When people see what goes on in the studio, they have so much more appreciation for handmade pottery."
But, he says, "Sometimes it seems like more out-of-towners know about me than Pittsburghers, because when they come to town, they go online and look for exactly my kind of unique, local, small business. So, it makes sense to me to open a second gallery for the holidays in a much more visible location and sell from both galleries." That way more Pittsburghers can discover Fireborn, as well as the other local artists whose work is in Vito’s galleries.
Vito does a lot of repeat business, with many of his customers making a special trip to the studio gallery to buy something or place a special order - for instance, unique dinnerware sets. He has a loyal following. He often receives letters from customers who have close emotional bonds with certain bowls or plates that they have used for years. One recent letter came from a man whose cereal bowl was broken and who was desperate for Vito to make an exact replacement - which he did.
The new gallery on 27th Street features works by a variety of artists. Vito says the group provides a mixture of styles and materials, forming a complementary collection. Over a dozen artists are represented. Local potters include Donn Hedman, Dale Huffman, Bryce Hemington, Karen McKee, and Yoko Sekino-Bove, among others. There is also a good selection of glass by artists Tim Laver, Tom Stonner, and Willesa O’Brien. The items are reasonably priced and are perfect for holiday gifts.
A selection of pieces available at Fireborn @ The Works:
|Above left to right: Yoko Sekino-Bove and Karen McKee|
|Above left to right: Donn Hedman and Bryce Hemington|
Fireborn @ The Works is open
seven days a week. Be sure to stop in the next time you are
strolling the streets of The SouthSide Works.
Fireborn @ The Works
523 S. 27th Street
Hours of Operation:
Mon–Fri: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sun: 12 noon – 6 p.m.
For more information, visit www.fireborn.com