By Michelle Frost
Daniel Peccia started making tile to remodel a fireplace. “That’s where it all started,” he tells me, pointing to the fireplace in his living room.
“When we bought the house, the chimney was falling off the wall and there was a piece of paneling covering it. The realtor told us we’d never be able to put another fireplace in.”
It was 2002 and the house was a 1970’s style. Peccia investigated his options and a friend suggested he could save about $1500 by making the repairs himself. “That’s when I learned how to make tile,” he smiles, “to save $1500 bucks.” The jump from fireplace restoration to making pottery happened when he discovered how much he loved working with clay. “I only do slab building, not wheel work.”
His first boss after college told Peccia, “The work you do, you never see the start or the end of it…ya gotta do something outside of work.” Peccia is a social worker by day, running a non-profit that serves the developmentally-disabled. He met his wife in the field. They are both social workers with challenging jobs and he explains it would be easy to fall into shop talk at home.
Even though his job entails a lot of problem-solving, Peccia enjoys the rewards and the fast-paced commotion, but when he comes home in the evening, he heads to his pottery – a project he can see start to finish, in the peace and quiet of his basement. He strives for a balance between the bureaucracy of work and the pleasure he finds in making pottery.
Peccia lived in Chicago as a young child until his family moved to Indiana. He attended Purdue University and received his degree in Social Work. He made his way to Portland about 20 years ago and found the home where he and his wife and their two daughters reside.
“At work, I take the new employees to coffee and I give them the same advice my first boss gave me…find something you love doing outside of work, something you can see start to finish.”
On a rainy Saturday morning, Peccia introduces his daughter, Helen. She is 13 years old, an Irish step dancer, and busy with many performances before St. Patrick’s Day. “My daughter has a hobby that takes me to the Irish bars!” he laughs. “How many dads can say that?”
Despite their busy morning, Peccia makes time for a tour of his remodeling projects: the fireplace where his love of pottery began, a bathroom wall covered in handmade, hand-painted tiles depicting a floral motif, and in the backyard, a gazebo with four posts and a straw bale bench entirely tiled over in colorful, tropical designs.
Saving $1500 on the fireplace remodel, he bought a kiln and, admittedly, “got a little manic with tiling projects around the house. But I wanted to do more with it.”
He explains. the beginning of his Poetry Pottery idea. “I’d walk around the neighborhood and see those poetry posts and I wanted to do something like that but with pottery.” He explored Etsy online but felt it wouldn’t get the attention or interest he was hoping for so he began using different imprints such as leaves and then rubber stamp letters.
When his cousin was married on St. Patrick’s Day, he selected an Irish proverb to imprint on the wedding gift he made for them. Using letters to imprint words in the clay naturally led to imprinting poetry. “I’ve always had an interest in poetry,” he confesses.
The home tour concludes at the Poetry Pottery box in the front yard, a gleaming display of plates, bowls, cups and wall plaques imprinted with poems by local poets.
Poetry Pottery is offered on the honor system and there is a small hole, like that in a birdhouse, where money can be deposited in any amount that seems fitting. “People don’t just take stuff [without paying],” he emphasizes, “Enough people are nice and they leave all kinds of little things in the box, like their own pottery, poems, felt crafts, etc.”
Pamela, a poet herself, has become his one-woman P.R. department, mentioning Poetry Pottery on her website (www.heartstump.org) and getting the word around town. He enjoys the interaction with passersby, strangers, local poets, children who bring their own poetry, and neighbors.
“You get a lot of Christmas mornings with this pottery!” he smiles, “Opening the kiln and never knowing exactly what you’ll find, and then checking the box. It’s like Christmas every day.”
What better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than by choosing a Poetry Pottery treasure from a local artist who supports local poets. The Poetry Pottery box can be found at 2115 SE 48th Ave., just south of Lincoln and north of Division St. Peccia welcomes commissions and special orders via firstname.lastname@example.org and invites all to check-out www.poetry-pottery.com.