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Long Beach rallies to help Clay on First pottery studio recover following a fire

A fire that broke out inside the pottery studio’s production area on Sunday, April 14, caused between $10,000 and $12,000 in damages, according to owner Clay Wood.

Long Beach rallies to help Clay on First pottery studio recover following a fire
Sierra Jensen, 6, makes a turtle during a free children's class at Clay on First pottery studio in the East Village Arts District Friday, April 26, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

When Clay Wood found out a fire had suddenly broken out inside his pottery studio in Downtown Long Beach, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, he couldn’t help but feel demoralized.

He’d spent the last year trying to pay off nearly $60,000 in debt for his business, Clay on First, which accumulated last summer due to “substantial” production issues and a huge dip in revenue, he said.

Though that period was financially challenging, Wood was able to keep his staff at the East Village Arts District studio together.

But when the fire broke out inside the studio’s production area on Sunday, April 14, Wood said he felt like they were back at square one.

“It just really kicked us when we were down,” Wood told the Watchdog. “But I think we’re starting to get back to a sense of normal.”

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The fire, according to Wood, was caused by a wooden board that someone left touching a kiln, which operates anywhere between 2200 to 2300 degrees to harden clay.

The board appeared to be going out on its own when the fire suddenly spread to some nearby shelving, Wood said. Smoke started billowing from the studio’s garage area, he said, adding that his security cameras captured the incident.

Firefighters rushed to the scene just before 8:30 p.m. and were able to put out the fire within 15 minutes, according to Long Beach Fire Department Captain Jake Heflin.

The fire itself wasn’t very large, Wood said, but it destroyed a lot of merchandise and caused between $10,000 to $12,000 in damage.

Two weeks ago, a hot kiln ignited nearby materials inside Clay on First pottery studio in the East Village Arts District, causing thousands of dollars of fire damage Friday, April 26, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

In the days that followed, the studio was forced to cancel classes, while Wood, his wife and staff spent hours on end scrubbing and cleaning everything they could using costly chemicals to help break down the soot left by the blaze, Wood said.

“My wife and I, we run the studio together, plus staff have been helping a lot,” Wood said. “We did most of the remediation ourselves because we just wanted to get back to work and get back to the classes. Insurance would’ve taken months to put things back together.”

To help with the process, Wood started a GoFundMe fundraiser earlier this week to help cover the cost of the damages. Community members quickly rallied around the business and had raised $9,380 out of its $15,000 goal by Friday evening.

Clay on First has served as a place for the community to explore different creative mediums through ceramics for the last 15 years. Despite that, Wood never expected to receive this much support, saying he feels “overwhelmed with appreciation and thanks” for everyone who has helped get the business back on track.

“We just really appreciate everyone's support and I hope we can pay it back by offering services, such as free classes and continuing to do what we do,” Wood said. “It’s really heartwarming because obviously it's been really tough mentally and physically.”

Clay on First is located at 406 First St. in Long Beach. It’s open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.


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