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Local potter’s dream comes true with help of ‘Fixer Upper’ star

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 5:56 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A new business that has enjoyed success in part because “Fixer Upper” star Joanna Gaines recognized a local potter’s talent before she was a star has opened in a new building in downtown Waco.

Black Oak Art, a pottery studio owned by Jonathan and Sara Martin, held its grand opening Saturday on Franklin Avenue.

The business offers custom, handmade pottery including everything from coffee mugs to vases and custom dish sets.

The opening was a lifelong dream for Jonathan, who got a degree in studio art from Baylor University in 2000, and his wife Sarah, who says she loves to entertain.

“I love making things and making things that meet a need for people and Sarah has an amazing ability to know the design and function,” Jonathan told KWTX.

Jonathan was a high school teacher by day, pursuing his passion of pottery by night back in 2008 when he began to make coffee mugs out of his garage for Common Grounds Coffee Shop in Waco.

“I always said ‘well I want to do something,’ but I didn’t know anything about where I was going to sell my pottery.”

Maybe it was a stroke of good fortune, but Jonathan’s custom-made mugs at the coffee shop ended up in the hands of Joanna Gaines, before Joanna Gaines was a household name.

“I did some for Joanna Gaines with Magnolia before any of that was anything,” Jonathan said.

“They were just remodeling houses without TV crews around and so we did some and she would just give them to her clients as gifts.”

Joanna would soon soar to superstardom on HGTV’s hit show, “Fixer Upper”, but she apparently never forgot about the talented pottery maker.

As her star began to rise and Magnolia market was opened at the Silos in downtown Waco attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors Joanna reached out to Jonathan.

“When they opened up their big store, they were like ‘hey are y’all still doing your mugs?’

And so, we’re like ‘yeah we can do some for you,’” Jonathan said. Jonathan began to make the first orders for Magnolia out of his garage, but those mugs quickly became a staple of Magnolia and the demand soared.

They outgrew the garage, and later a rental property.

This weekend all his dreams came true as Black Oak Art opened its doors.

“That grew fast,” Jonathan and Sarah said in unison, laughing.

Customers can now come in to shop the custom-made art, sculpted and created by the hands of nearly two dozen local artisans.

Two-hour workshops for pottery classes including hand building and wheel throwing will also be offered for $80.

Sara and Jonathan say they built the store with an open concept and large windows so that customers could feel a part of the process from start to finish.

They’ll offer free tours.

The tours are about 20 minutes and offer customers a behind-the-scenes look at the magic.

“Everyday people can come in and see the processes,” Jonathan said. “This building in particular tells our story really well and who we are, and I love the idea that it’s inviting people into that, too.”

“One mug could go through 16 different hands before it actually gets in the box to ship out.”

Joanna Gaines stopped by the grand opening as her sister also opened a pop-up business, called Ferny’s, a retro plant shop which offers vintage planters.

The Martins say the studio on Franklin Avenue that grew from their garage to a coffee shop to the Silos is a dream come true.

“I mean in some ways, expected. It’s like his dream but also like you never imagine that you can raise a family of five on a pottery company so also unexpected,” Sara said.

“Our vision statement is we make quality, affordable handmade goods that enrich people’s lives,” Jonathan said.

“For me, when I was making those first mugs for Common Grounds, and I thought I had that picture of people grabbing that mug out of their cabinets in the morning and it was just adding that little extra value to their part of the day.”

“I am touching people’s lives.”

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