Friday, October 29, 2010

Fireborn Studios: Profile of Dan Vito and Donna Hetrick

Fireborn Studios

Located at the corner of 24th and Sarah Streets, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 

Dan Vito

Donna Hetrick

Dan and Donna have been making and selling pottery for over 30 years, and over that time their work and how they have marketed it has evolved with the times.  Currently Donna is teaching art in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Dan is teaching classes at their studio and running the gallery where their work is exclusively sold.

In the past they sold through craft fairs, numerous galleries, wholesale outlets, and their retail shop.  Public school art teaching was also a large part of the equation for a while, with Donna currently teaching and Dan having taught for 15 years.

Since I have only interviewed Dan, much of this profile reflects his perspective but I hope to talk to Donna soon to include her input.

I have to say that they maintain one of the better websites that I have seen potters put up.  If you are a potter, you would be well served to go through it to learn effective ways to connect with the public.

Also, my tour through their studio contains reflections of their evolving efforts to market their work.  Donna's teaching job enables Dan to focus on doing more creative work and on his students who take classes in their studio.

The Gallery

The front of their studio contains the gallery.  The stock the gallery with their own pottery and with other artist's handmade glass and jewelry.

The best way to view the gallery online is the following link:

The Classes.

Since students take classes in a working studio, Dan has laid out specific instructions to establish guidelines that enable students to work and receive instruction while minimizing the disruption to a working studio.  The website provides extensive information to make expectations clear to prospective students:

Current students are also provided with a set of expectations and resources to insure a workable relationship for both.  This information is too extensive for inclusion here, so I urge you to click on the link below and check it out yourself.

Among other things, students enjoy small classes, use of the porcelain clay and glazes that Dan and Donna use for their own work, frequent firings, and individualized instruction.  

Student's pottery from recent firing.

Fireborn has a bisque firing room with electric kilns and ventilation.

Bisque storage.

Teapots in progress.

Glaze room.  Students have a choice of 35 glazes.

Adjoining the glaze area is a 100 cu ft gas kiln that is fired to Cone 11.

In the past to support their wholesale pipeline, Fireborn utilized a jigger for bowls and other forms.

Jigger in use.  Dan preferred to hand trim the bowls to achieve the aesthetic look he desired.

Fireborn also maintained a casting station to supplement their throwing and jiggering operations.

 Their backyard contains a small kiln and glaze spraying area in addition to an assortment of plants and flowers.

There is much more to show but I have to stop somewhere.  Visit Fireborn's website to see more, including a professionally made video.  All in all, very impressive.  Below are three pieces that are representative of their work.
Bottle with Shino glaze.

Shino platter.

 Tea set.

Additional pictures are available only at the following links:


  1. I agree that the pottery is very good. They can be used at home or give someone!

  2. Thank you, Terry, for such a beautiful write-up of our work!