Hidden away behind closed doors in the back of an unassuming red barn, Holly Salo sits at her potter’s wheel and gives shape to the earth.

Her clay creations reflect the serene wooded landscape that spans half the length her studio. Salo is the creative mind behind and owner of Holly Pots Stoneware.

Last week, while looking out onto Brown County woods from her pottery studio on her property near Henderson Ridge — where she has lived with her husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and her father since 2016 — Salo described what drew her to the area.

She was born and raised in Amherst, Mass., where she lived for around 21 years before moving to Columbus, Ind..

There she lived, worked and raised her family with her husband Damon for another 24 years.

While in Columbus, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Brown County area, and wished to one day call it home for her, her husband, their son and two daughters.

“These side roads, the way they’re built, the way they run along creeks and rivers, it just reminded me of home and I was like, ‘some day we are gonna live there,’” she said.

Her children are now grown and focusing on their careers — her oldest daughter is working on her second Master’s degree in Austin, TX, her son is an engineering technician in Columbus, and her youngest daughter is a project manager in Verona, Wis.

For 13 years, Salo worked for Cummins. She filled a few different roles in her time there, her last being a management position in human resources.

As a way relax and be creative after long days in the corporate world, Salo developed an interest in pottery.

“There’s something about having your hands, speaking metaphorically, in the earth. There’s something very wholesome and organic about it,” she said.

Despite her love for the medium, she said she never had the time or the resources to put toward it, as even a hobby.

She would work on pottery projects here and there, until her husband bought her a potter’s wheel around eight years ago.

“(He) said, ‘you know, you should just do it,’” Salo said.

Once she had the wheel, it became a more serious endeavor.

Before too long, the Salo’s garage was full of her clay creations.

After moving into their home in Brown County, they finished a barn on the property and built a pottery studio within it for more space.

Salo said she truly loves the pottery process and finds motivation in creating things for people to enjoy.

“What motivates me, is something very deep in me, that loves to be doing something creative, doing something wholesome, doing something that other people will find some kind of joy in,” she said.

In her first years as a potter, she didn’t have a kiln to finish her pieces.

She said she and her husband looked around for a while to find one that was used. After successfully locating and installing a kiln, she said the rest was history.

They started the Holly Pots business within a year of getting the kiln and formed the LLC in March of 2020, with the intention of selling pieces at festivals and markets and wholesaling to stores in Nashville.

That same month, their plans shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With stores closing down and markets being canceled, her plans to sell in-person fell through. Like countless other entrepreneurs, Salo had to move her new business online.

She made a website and began posting on Facebook and Instagram. She quickly gained a large number of followers, and to her surprise, customers began reaching out to her to request specific items.

“I never reached out to anybody, to do anything. They were calling, ‘Can I get some of your ornaments, let’s talk about wholesaling, let’s talk about mugs,’” she said.

The business flourished online for around nine months before Salo was faced with a challenging change in her lifestyle.

In December of 2020, following an “exceptionally tough year” full of pay cuts and extra hours because of the pandemic, Salo said she was part of a “reduction in force” at Cummins, ending her 13-year career with the company.

After her separation from the company, Salo made the decision to go full-time into her new business.

Since then she’s had opportunity to interact with the community and sell her creations in-person at events like the Nashville Farmer’s Market, and most recently at the Christkindl Market.

She also officially opened the business in a physical location in October, located on Old School Way in downtown Nashville.

Even though she is the creative mind behind it, Salo described Holly Pots is a family business.

She was thankful for her father, mother, husband, mother-in-law and father-in-law for all the help they provide, including manning the store and helping her produce smaller, bulk items like her Indiana-shaped Christmas ornaments, cleaning up around the studio and even sometimes carrying the 50-pound packages of clay to and from her studio.

Salo said she never imagined her business growing into what it is, and what kind of effect she could have on customers, both in and out of the Brown County community.

She said she was approached by a customer from Michigan at the Christkindl Market this year who was excited to finally meet her in person, because her pots had played a large role in saving her marriage — she and her husband bonded over caring for plants that lived in her pots.

“It was the most fascinating and heartwarming thing that happened to me in a long time,” she said.

Salo hopes to keep making and keep growing the business, both online and in the store downtown.

“Being able to do this, and to be honest, the way the community has received us, the pottery itself, our family — it’s been phenomenal,” she said.

“Whether it’s the farmer’s market, the other vendors we’ve met at the market, the shopkeepers downtown, the coordinators at some of these festivals and things, the community in general — I can’t tell you how appreciative of that I am. I really, really appreciate that about this county and the town. It’s amazing.”

Holly Pots Stoneware LLC

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday Through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday

Location: 59 E. Main St., Suite G, on Old School Way

Phone: 812-398-8010

Email: [email protected]

Website: hollypots.com

Facebook: HollyPots47448