Inside a low, sprawling, 50,000-square-foot white brick building in Norwood lies the United States’s largest education facility for clay. There are pottery wheels, kilns, and clay mixers. There are shelves and shelves of materials: tools, glazes, clay. There’s workshop space and retail space, storage and classrooms. Professionals, hobbyists, and students alike can work on wheel throwing, handbuilding, and pottery painting here. This is Queen City Clay.
The studio has called this Norwood facility home since 2020. Previously located on Wasson Road in Hyde Park, Queen City Clay (QCC) started out as Annie’s Mud Pie Shop 6 years ago. The then-owner, Annie Swantko, had been in an accident, and she turned to clay as therapy for her hands.
QCC’s current co-owner, Ben Clark, found Annie’s in the phone book when he moved to Cincinnati in 2004. “Annie’s was the biggest studio I’d ever seen,” Clark says. “I begged her to let me teach for her and mix clay—whatever she needed.” Annie’s changed hands—and names—more than once, but Clark has been a constant, teaching advanced classes the whole time. He bought the business in 2016 and gave the space its current name.
While Clark has a background in pottery, his résumé is, well, varied. His bachelor’s degree is in creative writing. He worked for Founders Brewing Company and coached gymnastics. He was a professional jump-roper who began competing in sixth grade. He attended his first world championship competition in Hungary during his sophomore year of high school. He won. Two years later, he went to his second world championship, in Sydney, Australia. He won that, too.
What he loves about jumping rope isn’t all that different than what he loves about pottery: Both connect people. And there’s that wow factor.
“When people see someone do flips and crazy tricks with a rope or in double Dutch, it’s very similar to the reaction people give when you’re making a large pot out of clay,” Clark says. “The clay moves in such a crazy way on the wheel that it seems like magic.” Similarly, teaching a kid to work on the wheel is as much of a confidence booster as teaching jump rope tricks. “I guess I’m addicted to making people happy.”
Queen City Clay, 2760 Highland Ave., Norwood, (513) 871-2529