New site for ceramics studio has owner all Fired Up

Janna Malo is literally turning things upside down in a new Victoria location for her two-year-old Fired Up ceramics business.

The curved front desk in the leased space at 1801 Fort St., at the corner of Fort Street and Richmond Road, has been up-ended. A new table top will convert it into a painting space for parties.

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Malo, 25, is aiming to open in the first week in July. She is moving Fired Up from 1636 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. because the space was no longer available after the lease expired.

With the help of family and friends, Malo is converting her new 1,625-square-foot space into a studio for ceramic painting, where items will be fired in an on-site kiln.

The volunteer crew has been working steady since the beginning of the month. Partner Ryan Gisler, a mechanical engineer, is on the job, as is Malo’s father-in-law, Joe Gisler, who is taking care of construction. Friends Kevin Klein, an electrical engineer, and Pieter Koopman, who has woodworking skills, are pitching in as well. Malo’s parents were also here from Surrey lending helping hands.

“It’s kind of a diamond in the rough,” Malo said Monday looking around the work-in-progress. She’s putting in long hours, splitting her time between the Saanich location and Fort Street.

After looking at a few potential locations, the Fort Street location’s natural light streaming through windows on two sides — and the high-traffic location — won Malo over. “Ryan and I walked in and it felt right,” she said.

The former site of Jivko Stone and Tile has 14 free parking spaces for customers off Richmond Road, she said.

Malo fell for painting ceramics at age five at a birthday party in Surrey. After that, she would stop by a pottery studio every day after school to paint.

She moved here to attend the University of Victoria, where she earned a psychology degree and took courses at the Vancouver Island School of Art, always thinking that she would like to pursue art therapy.

Fired Up is about relaxing and having fun. During the week the space is quiet and “Zen-like,” she said.

“My business model is to be where someone can come and bond with their family or friends, or bond with themselves,” Malo said.

“The wonderful thing about ceramics is you can’t go wrong. Anything shiny is totally beautiful and you can’t make a mistake in this, so it’s a confidence builder.”

Painting ceramics is a way for people to get together away from electronic gadgets and stress. “You can come and have a mini-vacation, so to speak,” Malo said.

A woman pops in for 20 minutes at a time for what she calls “Mom time” between work and heading home to her family.

About 30 per cent of the business consists of parties for children, but one 50-year-old man brought his family in to paint while they listened to rock music. Along with parties, lessons, teas, and drop-in painting are also available.

Malo takes supplies to offices for team-building exercises and to other places such as schools and retirement homes.

Sales have increased about 50 per cent year-over-year, she said.

Items can range from $1.50 to $200. Buy a white earthenware piece and the paint and firing in the kiln is included. People can return to work on their pieces. Options include a wide range of decorative items, plates, mugs, lots of Christmas items and more.

Stoneware, which is more durable, is being added. Items include mugs, bowls, plates, pizza stones, baking dishes, pie plates. Prices have yet to be established.

A fused-glass studio will be larger in the new location, said Malo.


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