Happy Life Pottery and Gallery in Benicia has been generating a buzz on First Street since before its opening last fall, when folks would peak in the windows to watch the space come to life. Now that space is fully up and running, making an even bigger buzz—of the creative variety. The vibe is playful and relaxed, inviting people to come dive in and get their hands dirty throwing pots on an electric wheel, or get lost in the unique handmade goods in the retail gallery. The studio is where the magic happens, and everyone is invited to join in. Pottery Projects are offered on Saturday nights, where visitors can drop in and make a simple project, and there’s a 6-week pottery course for all skill levels. Clay workshops for kids and adults are in the planning stages for kids and adults, as well as inviting special guest potters from all over the country to do workshops. Owners David Stellato and Amy Therese moved to Benicia from Austin, Texas, where David had quit his corporate career to raise his sons. Then David discovered pottery, which helped him through difficult treatments battling cancer. Benicia Magazine recently caught up with the dynamic team to chat about Happy Life.
BM: How did you go from pottery as a hobby to opening a studio?
Amy: When I first met David in a pottery studio in Austin, I told him “You have to teach.” And I meant it. He did more than explain techniques—he inspired passion for the art form because his exuberance is contagious!
David: When we visited Benicia in 2016, we fell in love with the community and knew it was the perfect place to open a studio “someday.” However, “someday” came a lot sooner than we were expecting when we found out that my mom had cancer shortly after that. We moved from Austin, Texas, to California to take care of her and 17 months later, when she got better, we stumbled upon the perfect location for our studio in downtown Benicia.
BM: Was pottery part of your cure?
David: Pottery definitely got me through that difficult period. There’s something about being connected with actual earth (clay), being able to center yourself while centering the clay, and being creative, that helps bring peace and balance to the body, mind and emotions.
BM: Why the name Happy Life?
Amy: We met during a time in which we were both totally in life transition. I had just left a successful, but high-stress, corporate career when I met David—who had not only done the same thing, but also had also just completed chemotherapy. We weren’t 100% sure where we were going, but we knew that whatever we did, it would be with the intention to live happy and to make the most of our lives.
BM: What’s your favorite part about running the studio?
David: I love working with people and getting to witness that ah-HA moment when things start to come together for them, especially if they have struggled a bit initially. Pottery is great practice for life because you learn to breathe and let go of your perfectionism. And it’s incredibly fun to see people come in who have had a stressful day and be able to leave that all behind. I feel like I have the best job in the world because I get to facilitate joy.
BM: What kinds of people like your classes?
Amy: All kinds of people! Although our focus is on adults, there’s definitely not a pottery “type” because you don’t need to be artist to do it.
BM: What is the focus of the retail space?
Amy: Our home and gift boutique offers an awesome variety of beautiful things. We feature treasures from artisans locally and worldwide, and we also have some wonderful fair trade lines. People are always surprised when they come in, especially if they were expecting just a pottery store. We have a little something for everyone.