Big Dog Pots Pottery, since its opening in 2014, has become a destination for kids of all ages as they discover the fun and wonder of getting hands-on in the creative arts.

Activities include Pottery Painting, Hand-building with Clay, Fused Glass, Canvas Painting, and Wheel Throwing. At Big Dog Pots you can count on a warm welcome and friendly cheerful atmosphere, as well as being encouraged and mentored by Lori Langford and her great staff.

Big Dog Pots Pottery
Big Dog Pots Pottery

If you think you’re totally without an artistic gene, no worries: Langford knows firsthand that every person has a streak of creativity – however deeply it might be hidden. In fact, a family joke that she “couldn’t draw, couldn’t paint” still produces smiles, but Big Dog Pots Pottery is proof that Langford has a gift for her craft.

“I really don’t consider myself an artist, but I am creative,” said Langford. “My husband is a beautiful artist, a true Renaissance man. Our children are also talented. It was a big surprise to my entire family that I could do this.”

This, meaning Big Dog Pots Pottery, located at 8287 East Main Street in Marshall. The increasing popularity of the creative arts studio and gift gallery resulted in its expansion, thanks to Lori’s husband, Hugh Langford, who built an impressive two-story addition on the east side of the 1890 house. Downstairs, the huge bright studio offers seating for 50 and nine potter’s wheels. The upstairs features a marvelous space for groups of 30, such as parties, family reunions, bridal showers, meetings, corporate team building, etc.

It all started ten years ago when Lori needed grief therapy after the sudden loss of her mother. Given Lori’s liking for ceramics, Hugh suggested that she try making pottery. As it turned out, the so-called “art-less” one found both healing and enterprising fulfillment in shaping lumps of clay into functional and decorative stoneware – everything from mugs, dinnerware, flower pots, colanders, berry bowls, dog bowls, candlesticks to you-name-it.

Hugh built a studio behind their home in Fauquier County, and Lori filled it to the rafters. He built an addition, and she filled that, too, in spite of gifting items to all their friends and selling her wares at craft shows.

“When we bought this house on Main Street, it was going to be my studio with a sales gallery on the front, but ever since I opened the doors, it has taken on a life of its own,” Lori said. “Big Dog Pots Pottery has been well received by the community. Our customers consistently expressed the desire for hands-on art-making experiences, and we kept growing in response to their enthusiasm.”

Big Dog Pots Pottery
Big Dog Pots Pottery

One “enthusiast” recalls smiling every time she drove by and saw the Big Dog Pots sign. “I always wanted to go there, and in 2015 I took my first series of four lessons, hand-building in clay,” said Karen Jackley, Middleburg. “I made several mugs and two wonderful vases that I use all the time at home.”

In April Jackley signed up for Pottery Wheel lessons and continued taking lessons into summer. Totally hooked, she started doing “studio time,” a great program offered to Lori’s wheel students when they’re ready to work on their own.

“I have learned that you can strive for perfection with laughter. That stuff happens, that clay is independent, that it picks up on you and how you handle it,” said Jackley. “I’ve made a lot of wonky things, but I’m getting there. The other day, I was trimming the best bowl I ever made — it was really beautiful — and I broke it. I was kind of upset, then I realized, hey, no problem, I can make another one!”

Pottery Painting, one of Lori’s first offerings, turned into a runaway success, and Big Dog Pots now stocks a selection of more than 500 pieces. Canvas Painting also proved wildly popular and resulted in a huge inventory of pre-sketched canvases that become personal works of colorful art.

The Gift Gallery showcases Lori’s work with displays of functional and decorative stoneware. She also fills custom orders for wedding gifts, dog bowls, and other pieces. There’s no doubt that watching her make magic with clay on her wheel led to Big Dog Pots offering lessons on the Potter’s Wheel. Classes and special events, such as kids’ birthday parties with Pottery Painting, etc., expanded to include Hand-building With Clay and Fused Glass.

“We’re excited that the next activity we offer will be Stained Glass that Hugh and I will teach,” said Lori. “It’s going to occupy our former pottery wheel room, which is the last room that Hugh will work on. He’ll probably get to it late this fall, and we’re hoping to offer the first Stained Glass classes after the New Year.”

One thing for certain at Big Dog Pots: you will find something that piques your interest. You may know nothing about the particular medium, but that’s part of the fun of going to Big Dog Pots — where everyone’s hoping to liberate that creative streak.

“Even though I stay very busy with the horses and other critters on our farm, all I can think about every day is when can I get back to working with clay on the wheel, because it is the best antidote to daily life stress,” said Catherine Mack of The Plains. “Plus, it’s the perfect outing for the whole family, especially for people with all ages of grandchildren to entertain. There’s something to interest everyone. It’s addicting. It takes you right out of your life.”

Open seven days a week, walk-ins are welcome, but groups of more than four, such as Scouts, 4-H, after school classes, home school classes, birthday parties, family/friend groups, and classes, are encouraged to call ahead.

Check out BigDogPots.com and Facebook for “Try It” standalone classes and special events. September marks the return of weekly kid/teen/adult classes, geared to beginners, in Wheel Throwing and Fused Glass. To schedule private sessions, contact Lori.

Heads up: on Sunday, September 10, Washington Area Animal Adoption Group (www.WAAAG.com and on Facebook) will hold its Bingo fundraiser at Big Dog Pots from 2-4 p.m. Pre-purchase tickets for $35 or pay $40 per person at the door. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to WAAAG.

Big Dog Pots Pottery is the place to go to find a special gift or liberate your creative self. There’s always a warm welcome, and hands-on creativity is a great antidote to stress. If you’re feeling isolated, it’s a happening happy place.

Drop in and say hello. Tell them Lauren sent you.

www.bigdogpots.com