The Story of The ClayGround Studio & Gallery
Ellen and Michael Koplow have lived in the cities of Columbia and Ellicott City since the 1980s, after they graduated from the University of Maryland. They loved the area and started a family. Daughter Grace works in New York City and son MaTt works at The ClayGround. You could say he’s the reason The ClayGround is what it is today.
MaTt is a graduate of McDaniel College. With his passion for history, animal advocacy and the arts (specifically mosaics) he chose to live in Old Ellicott City in the Historic Howard House, about 100 feet from The ClayGround. And then came the catastrophic flood of July 30, 2016. It caused loss of lives, significant structural damage, financial burdens and a tremendous emotional strain on many.
Prior to the flood, MaTt worked and volunteered in the mornings at the Maryland Counsel for Special Equestrians, an equestrian therapy organization located a mile up the road in Catonsville. In the afternoons, he was an instructor at The ClayGround, where he also created and sold his mosaic pieces.
Although the actual structure of the building that houses The ClayGround was not damaged in the flood waters, there was significant damage to the area. Streets were closed, utilities turned off, auto and foot traffic came to a halt. Businesses were destroyed and boarded up. It was a stressful time for all residents and business owners. The owner of The ClayGround decided that she wasn’t going to reopen after the flood.
Michael remembers that day
MaTt doesn’t say much, but when he told us the owner’s decision to close up shop, the look in his eyes told us that his heart was breaking. So the next morning, on a 6 a.m. walk with our 7-year-old black lab, I turned to Ellen and said, “I’m thinking of doing something pretty silly.” And her response was, “You’re thinking of buying The ClayGround, aren’t you?” She paused and said, “So am I.”
That afternoon they began negotiations and about a month later, they re-opened the doors under their ownership. It was September 23, 2016. In September of 2019, they purchased the building and when the pandemic shut everything down in March of 2020, they took the opportunity to fully renovate and newly equip the space into a beautiful, clean and modernized art studio and gallery. They are now able to provide an even better classroom and artistic experience for students and guests.
And why did they do it?
Michael says, “There are lots of reasons and most of them revolve around what has become our mantra: The Experience.”
You might think you aren’t creative or artistic, but The ClayGround’s talented instructors and a warm, inclusive environment create an experience that brings out the artist in everyone. From the curious first-timer to the more advanced student, the instructors provide guidance when students need it and freedom when they don’t.
Friends and families. First dates and fiancés. Coworkers and classmates. All are welcome. Anyone can be an artist and everyone can be themselves.
The ClayGround Studio & Gallery is what you make it … and where you make it.