Shay Church owns Grayling Ceramics, where he makes a variety of beautiful and seductive kitchenware’s, including beer steins, coffee mugs, growlers and plates. Each piece is one of a kind, and his goal is to make things that people will use each and everyday. The studio was started around two years ago after a successful kick-starter that allowed him to buy his equipment and find studio space.

I want to build things that people are going to use. I want my plates to be banging around in the sink every day and my mugs to be the one you reach for every morning.

During our studio visit, we met Shay’s assistant Abby who was hard at work trimming a growler on the wheel. It’s this piece that Shay is most proud of, and they can be found at breweries and stores around Kalamazoo and Michigan. The growlers are difficult to build because they have to be able to handle the weight and pressure of the beer. He probably made five different versions before settling on the final one that is being sold now.

Every piece is handmade, and includes many steps from filling the molds, glazing the pieces, and firing everything in an oven at 2100 degrees. Getting the glazing right is a bit tricky, because it needs a lot of mixing before getting to the right color. It’s a science, and the colors currently in use took six years to develop.

It’s always a balance because I always wanna have fun and make cool things

Grayling Ceramics is located in The Reality Factory, an old brick building at 213 E. Frank St. that serves as “a creative hub, a small business incubator, an inspirational communal space, (and) a destination.” The building is full of history, and has housed many small businesses over the past century including French Garment Co., the Black Diamond Skirt Co., the Young Rug Co., and H & P Pattern Co. The tradition continues, and today the factory provides space for 1977 Mopeds and Read and Write Kalamazoo.

Shay and the other businesses in the Reality Factory are continuing to grow and find ways to connect with their community. This Fall they will be launching a coffee shop in the building, where customers can enjoy coffee in the mugs made below in the Grayling studio. Someday he hopes to move into a larger studio, but right now he sees potential in this location and their hope is to make their neighborhood into a retail destination and community space.

You'll find Shay in the courtyard of the market every Saturday, but keep your eyes open while your out and about in Kalamazoo- he sells to many galleries and restaurants in the area!