Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Seize the Time, Pet the Kittens at Westbrae’s Paradise Pottery

By Ron Sullivan
Friday August 10, 2007

Now that Clay of the Land has gone out of business—the likable and savvy owners lost their lease to a developer, how novel—I guess I ought to mention other local marvelous discount pottery places. Here’s one to get to before the high-rise axe descends upon its lot, as there’s been a for sale placard there right from the start.  

The lot’s owner is on record as wanting to accommodate its former tenant, A New Leaf Garden Gallery, while building there but as the gallery moved to San Francisco instead and that’s a juicy bit of real estate in a prosperous neighborhood, who knows what will actually happen?  

Paradise Pottery was an oddly recent discovery for me. I’d passed it a zillion times, and gone to Westbrae Nursery next door too, but in the two years it’s been open I had somehow not quite accomplished the opportune intersection between my free time, the direction of traffic, and the place’s open hours.  

It’s not that they place isn’t open much, either. Tuesday’s the only closed day and there’s a reasonable chance there’ll be someone there anyway. Maybe I should try to change the schedule of my orthodontist appointments, or the rhythm of my Costco runs.  

But I solved the problem the other day when I drove ‘round the corner and spotted a miraculously easy parking space. I parked for a half-hour and Joe and I took a stroll through the crockery.  

We were greeted by an adolescent gray tabby kitten who played some jittery game of peekaboo with us, coming forward for a pat on the head and then changing his mind, pursuing things we couldn’t see among the urns and pots, peering cautiously around a stack to see if we were watching, getting distracted by some subtle movement on the ground before he decided how to react when we were caught looking.  

The potscape he was exploring comprised indoor- and outdoor-sized planters, watertight things that could become cachepots or fountains or miniature pools. This was set in a cozy lot of flagstone, gravel, and a mostly-dry fake stream, varied by rock walls with cascading erigeron, upright leafy and spiky tropicals, a couple of nice lacy shade trees. It’s pretty much unchanged from A New Leaf’s place, which is nice. I only wish they’d kept the stream running.  

The crockery is in general quite handsome; it’s certainly various enough for various tastes and priced reasonably. The range includes brightly painted Talavera ceramics from Mexico; big things from China or Vietnam with deep-black, bricky-red, or subtle drip glazes, shiny or leathery or incised or molded or pebbly or matte. It’s a deep variety for such an apparently small lot.  

Staff seems to consist of Beth Chambers, who welcomed us with exactly the right balance of helpfulness and backing-off, and the owner. And that cat, Casper, and his calico sister Tibby. Go on over and tell them we said Prrrrrrrr.  



1286 Gilman St., Berkeley. 528-4291 

10 a.m.—6 p.m. Wednesday through  

Monday. Closed Tuesdays.