Dawn Soltysiak says, "Makers have to make." The one-time real estate agent left that career and city life behind to preserve her sanity. The Fennville potter now lives on a farm raising chickens, peacocks, and livestock.
But that’s not all that grows on her organic farm. It’s also dotted with pottery kilns, and its big red barn is home to Khnemu Studio. In town, Soltysiak runs the Fernwood 1891 shop and art gallery, along with Root, a coffee shop next door.
“Almost 20 years ago, my husband took a job down this way, and so we’re look at homes, and this one was always in my group of listings,” Soltysiak says. “I was afraid of it, because I knew what I wanted to do.”
Shrugging off that fear, Soltysiak and her husband bought the property and, after doing some restoration work on the farm, opened shop.
“Khnemu Studio is named after the Egyptian god of arts, crafts, fertility, and creation,” Soltysiak says. “It was believed that he created man on the potter’s wheel. I started it for myself but then I brought in other artists’ work. A couple years ago, I started an internship program, and so I have people come from New York, Kentucky, and this year I have a couple coming in from Pennsylvania.”
Along with the internship program and resident artists, Soltysiak offers workshops and events, and a studio membership. She also participates in Arts & Eats and other regional events and tours.
In downtown Fennville, Soltysiak runs Root, a café offering locally sourced produce, some of which comes from her own farm, seven days a week. She also owns Fernwood 1891, where customers can by art and jewelry from Khnemu Studio and about a hundred regional artists as well as artisanal foods. An artist is often at work in the studio at the store during business hours for people to observe.
“It’s an art gallery, or a makers’ market, where I try to represent what West Michigan is about,” Soltysiak says.
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