Paseo Pottery's Angela Smith Kirkman cooked up the idea while at Standing Rock, donating a Thanksgiving meal to Water Protectors during the protests in 2017. She wanted to create a pottery business staffed completely by volunteers that donates 100% of its net profits to a local nonprofit organization each year.
Cut to today—roughly a year since Kirkman took over Paseo Pottery from its original founders Mike Walsh, Ginny Zipperer and Janet Williams—and Kirkman is preparing to make donations to the Sky Center, a suicide prevention organization, and the Santa Fe Watershed Association. Kirkman estimates she'll be handing over at least $1,000 to each organization, but the final number will be revealed this Friday during a party at Paseo Pottery, That evening, Kirkman will announce the next nonprofits to which she intends to donate.
Did we mention Kirkman's husband is Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery owner Jason Kirkman, and that he'll be at the event with a special beer and cocktail to help celebrate? We caught up with Kirkman to find out how it all works and how it feels to run such a project.
Tell us a little bit about the Paseo Pottery mission.
It's been here for 28 years, and I only just turned it into a charity a year ago. It was established as an artist's co-op and was run by these incredible artists, and when one of them retired last year, I took it over. At first I thought I was going to do what the previous owners had and rent out studio space, but I didn't find a lot or artists who wanted studio space, and that's why the class model evolved. We do bachelorette parties, T-Mobile brought in their corporate team; $75 covers a two-hour class, all the materials and glazes and firing. And our mission is to donate 100% of our net profits to local charities. Our customers get to vote for the nonprofits, and at the end of the year we tally up the votes. They can choose any nonprofit in Santa Fe and there are, I think, like, 800 nonprofits; the votes come in a wide range. Last year, two tied—this year, three tied. At the party, we'll reveal how much they'll each [receive]. … I don't know the number yet, but my accountant says it's going to be at least $1,000 to each.
How does the donation cycle work?
Last year we had our grand opening party on April 1, so it's been one year. And at that party, we chose the nonprofits that would get the profits from the first year. At the party this Friday, we'll give the two nonprofits from last year a check, and we'll also announce our nonprofits for this coming year, and they'll get our profits for the next year.
As we come up on one year, are you still feeling like it’s been a good plan?
I was worried we'd get to the end of the year and have nothing to donate, because pottery is honestly not that lucrative. But once we started offering classes, we started making more money, and it's thanks to our amazing volunteers. We have a group of about 10 volunteers. Nobody is getting paid; they're doing it for the passion for clay, and everything here will get donated back to the community. And our customers, too. We're getting a lot of 20- and 30-somethings who are coming to Santa Fe from elsewhere and don't want to go home with knick-knacks. They want an experience.
How do nonprofits get more involved? Can they?
Absolutely. Different nonprofits come in and introduce us to what they're doing, and I have their brochures available to customers. They can leave material about what they're doing.
This is going to sound dickish, but I don’t mean it that way—but, why do this?
I already have a job that pays for all my expenses, a translation company that I can do from [Paseo Pottery] called Atalaya Global. Say you buy a bottle of ibuprofen and there's an insert that's in 12 different languages. That's what my company does—but at the end of the day, it's not really fulfilling.
What is your pottery or ceramics background?
I started studying in 1991 in college, and it wasn't my major—my major was romance languages—but it was something I always studied. Pottery is what I've always done as an artistic outlet, and when [my husband and I] were traveling around the world, I studied pottery in every country we visited.
Can you at least give us a hint about who’ll get the donations this year?
I can actually tell you: Tewa Women United, New Energy Economy and Casa First. I'm pretty excited that one is working for children, one for social justice and one for environmental causes.
What’s your long game, if there is one?
I would love to continue doing this. Right now we have a three-year lease, and one year is up. But y'know, I work for big pharmacy companies; I work for bad guys, that's how I make my money, so I feel like I have to do something to offset that. Maybe I could [do pottery] more often as soon as I don't need to make any more money. I'm there at least 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, and if I could just play in the mud all day, I would. But I don't want my pottery to ever be how I make a living. If it became my way of making a living, it would become a job, right?
Paseo Pottery Charity Party
5 pm Friday April 26. Free.
1424 Paseo de Peralta,