Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of monthly articles focusing on downtown Truro businesses and the people who operate them.
TRURO - Have you ever heard the expression, ‘life is what happens while you're making other plans?'
That's how Danielle Sawada and Jeff Benetti, owners of Thrown Together Pottery, ended up in Nova Scotia with a pottery business in Truro that developed more or less by accident. Sawada and Benetti moved here from Toronto in 1997.
"Partly for the adventure of it and partly because we had two small children and Toronto was not where we wanted to raise them," said Jeff. "Admittedly, we were somewhat reckless."
Danielle had spent some time in Nova Scotia as a youngster and both had travelled here on vacation by motorcycle several years before.
"It seemed like a good fit for us, although we both envisioned living in Halifax," she said.
Jeff, a plastic injection mould designer, landed a job in Debert, however, and life in Halifax faded from the picture. Then one day he learned the plant where he was employed was closing within days and the family's only breadwinner was suddenly out of work.
"I had been dabbling at pottery and decided to contact the Truro Farmers' Market co-ordinator to see if I could set up and sell some of my work in an effort to keep food on the table," said Danielle. "I was only doing it as a hobby and looking back I know now I really wasn't very good at it then. I had no idea what to expect at the market, but the response was fabulous and I quickly realized there was a void to be filled here."
It only took Jeff three weeks to find another job, but Danielle continued with her pottery creations, getting better all the time and continuing to sell at the market.
"The market really was a godsend to us," she said. "Not only did it provide a venue for my pottery, but we also made new friends there. And Jeff, who is also a musician, was able to do some busking at the market and made more there than he did busking in Toronto. It gave us a real sense of community."
Eventually, the couple was able to buy a little house on King Street and turn it into a real studio, something Danielle notes would have been much harder to achieve in Toronto.
"In Toronto, we would have had to start with a more grandiose plan to suit the market. Here, we didn't have to go way out on a limb. We were able to start small and grow as we saw the need."
And Danielle and Jeff have found there is indeed a need and a desire for the arts and arts-based businesses in Truro as the shop has seen steady growth every year since it opened six years ago.
"In addition to the pottery we now have 20 artisans providing consignment work in a wide variety of media - paintings, woodwork, sculptures, photography, soap, jewelry, greeting cards and so on," said Danielle.
The pottery classes she originally started in her home have grown by leaps and bounds as well. Over the years, more than 200 people of all ages and backgrounds have worked with her to learn the art of creating with clay.
"For some, it's something they've always wanted to try. For others, it may be doctor-ordered as a stress reliever. When you're working with the clay, you don't think about problems in your life. You're just concentrating on making a ball of clay do something!"
Danielle is the only teaching potter between Cape Breton, Halifax and Moncton with travelling from Antigonish and Amherst. She has even had people come from Cape Breton and stay in a hotel while they took private classes for their whole family. And another student even moved to Truro so she could take pottery lessons.
Jeff and Danielle agree there's been a lot of growth in Truro in the past 10 to 15 years. "There's rush hour traffic now," Jeff laughed.
And Thrown Together Pottery hopes to be a part of the Truro business scene well into the future.
"The farmers' market gave us a start and now our little studio is a gem just off the beaten track in downtown that people like to discover," said Danielle. "And our bright new green and orange colour scheme certainly helps us get found!"
TAGLINE: Grace Murray is the promotions and marketing co-ordinator of the Downtown Truro Partnership, an organization representing the interests of the downtown business community since 1979.