The Daily Gamecock

The Mad Platter pottery studio is 'in the business of making memories'

Perhaps the best way to describe The Mad Platter pottery studio is in the words of manager Christina West: "The pop of color at the end of Millwood." She is referring to Millwood Avenue, where The Mad Platter, with its artistic displays and bubbly staff, sits on a street that has "not really anything going on," West said.

Margaret Neville, who has owned The Mad Platter for 23 years, said because of its location and exterior, some people mistake the studio for a restaurant. Or, they drive by every day and never think to stop, which Neville admits is challenging. However, she continues to celebrate the studio's creative energy and focus on its broad range of services. 

"She's here, just bright and colorful, just waiting for people to come create, which is a lot of fun," West said of the studio. "It gets people jazzed about the art scene."

To set it apart from similar studios, the staff is constantly creating new items and services. According to its website, customers can experiment with pottery painting, jewelry making, glass fusing and clay impressions, among other artistic activities. 

"We had to evolve, change, add things to keep people wanting to come back in," Neville said. 

Regardless of what customers choose to make, Neville believes it is the opportunity to create and share art that makes The Mad Platter stand out. 

 "We like to think that we're in the business of creating memories," Neville said. 

The studio has around 500 ceramic pieces in stock every day for customers to paint. This includes a menagerie of everything from animal figurines to pieces for different holidays and events. 

For customer Vanderlon Durham, this wide selection is part of The Mad Platter's appeal. Another defining quality, she said, is the studio's employees and "the hands-on ability with the staff to make sure that you make a custom piece that you enjoy and want to show off." 

The studio's staff knows about different techniques and styles partly because each staff member's training includes creating art themselves, West said. 

"Say someone picked a margarita glass off the shelf. Any staff member should be able to say 'Hey, here's six different ways you could paint that,'" West said.

In the same way the studio itself is constantly developing and trying new things, customers of The Mad Platter can use art to step outside their comfort zones. The staff's knowledge and involvement help make this possible. 

Durham said she has already noticed a difference in her work since her initial visit to the studio. In the beginning, she stuck to using basic paints, but she has now moved on to speckled varieties, Durham said.

In order to develop this space for artists to grow and explore their creativity, Neville has had to dismiss negativity from some community members. 

"I would have a lot of people walk in and say, 'Do you think you're gonna make it?'... And after a while, I would say to people, 'Well, I've made it for five years. I've made it for ten years. I've made it for twelve. I've made it for fifteen. I've made it for twenty,'" Neville said. "I think I'm gonna do okay. It's work, but as long as you put the effort into it, it will come back to you."

Neville and her staff have even more new things planned for the future and discuss fresh ideas every day. 

"In order to survive, I've got to think outside the box," Neville said. "And that's what art is, outside the box."