Local artist Rebecca Koop is seeking help from her community after a storm damaged her pottery studio and outdoor kiln late last month.
Koop is an artist and potter who owns Back Door Pottery on St. John Avenue in Historic Northeast Kansas City.
On September 23 a major storm took down a neighbor’s 45-foot hackberry tree, destroying her six-foot tall chain link fencing and access gate, two electric power line support poles, the outdoor kiln workshop, and the 15-foot-tall wood burning Raku kiln.
The downed power poles have left her studio without power for days, and it won’t be back on until late this week. Koop estimated the cost of tree removal at $2,500.
“I’ve had to cancel evening classes for the near future, along with scheduled Raku workshops for October and November,” Koop wrote in her post on GoFundMe.
She said she’ll have to sort through the fallen bricks to assess if she has enough unbroken to rebuild. With enough fireproof bricks, she and those who have volunteered to help her rebuild will restack the kiln without mortar.
Koop has found her niche in using a wood firing kiln in the Kansas City pottery community.
“You get dirty and you get to play with fire,” Koop explained. “Presently, it’s just a pile of rubble, but they’re getting the tree off the shed itself right now. Kiln rebuilding can take at least eight weeks after purchase of replacement brick and shelves. The workshop structure must be completely replaced along with the electric service poles.”
On top of removal and replacement costs, Koop will lose vital teaching income – and the creative outlet it’s been. She had to cancel her weekly classes for the foreseeable future, and the upcoming Raku workshops.
Koop has been a resident of Northeast since 1967. Her business, Back Door Pottery, was started in 1979 and she opened her present location at 3922 St. John in April of 1986.
She received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1979 and has been a full-time potter since. She was a part-time instructor of ceramics at William Jewell College from 1980 to 1999. She has demonstrated and marketed her work at many art fairs throughout the years.
The majority of Koop’s work is functional-kitchenware in stoneware, porcelain, and terracotta earthenware. A love for Japanese Koi Fish has turned her focus to playful, colorful fish forms. Tile, mosaics and Egyptian paste faience are specialty items, and she offers classes in those forms. Lately, she’s made ceramic pumpkins for autumn.
The pottery studio on St. John is where all work is produced, with a small showroom in the front. Weekly pottery classes are held two evenings per week and are open to beginners, as well as advanced recreational potters. Children’s workshops and individual group sessions are held on an appointment basis.
In June of 1999, Rebecca took on the position of Executive Director of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, where she had served on the board for five years. She now serves as the organization’s Business and Community Events Director.
Koop was a founding member and served on the board of the KC Clay Guild for 10 years. Now, she serves on the board of Northeast Arts KC, a nonprofit focused on supporting performing, visual and liberal arts in the community.
Originally built in the 1920’s the Back Door Pottery studio has served as an auto repair shop, machine shop, hardware store and laundromat before becoming a neighborhood pottery shop, next to a community garden that Koop manages.
The studio has nine potter’s wheels including electric and kick, slab roller, extruder, four electric kilns, wood and propane Raku kilns and a 40-cubic-foot gas downdraft kiln for students use. Kiln space can be rented out for firing one piece or full loads, low or high fire bisque and glaze. But for now, all classes and kiln rentals are on hold until the kiln can be repaired and power restored.
Koop hopes to be back up and running sometime in November, and is preparing for the Northeast Arts Open Studio Tour planned for December. She is asking for $3,500 to make necessary repairs to her outdoor kiln and workshop, and to help with storm clean up at gofund.me/d274bb2d.