Which Came First, The Kiln or the Kitchen?
This story begins many years ago when Joanne Horton and Rich Mudge met during their art school days at the Otis College of Art and Design in 1993. They both were enrolled in the historic Ceramics program there under Ralph Bacerra, studying many aspects of the medium, including the science and chemistry of clay and glaze calculation.
Upon graduating Art School, Joanne and Rich found work in the Ceramics field making high end dinnerware and hand painted custom tile murals for various establishments. In 1998 they opened their own clay studio in Calabasas, Ca, offering pottery classes to children, adults, and elementary afterschool programs. They called their new venture Creative Fire Clay Studio.
While operating the clay studio Joanne and Rich tended and nurtured vegetable gardens from which they prepared and jarred many kinds of food. They often shared homemade marinara sauces, salsas, soups, and various chilis with family, neighbors, friends, employees, and coworkers. As they say: “We haven’t purchased store bought marinara sauce in nearly two decades.” Meal preparation and Ceramics production share much in common. Both are made from raw ingredients that are weighed and measured, yielding precise outcomes that titillate the senses and both go through transformation via thermal processes. “In the clay studio we call it ‘Firing.’ In the kitchen we call it baking, frying, braising, boiling, grilling, smoking, etc,” says Rich Mudge.
With so much time created during the Covid pandemic, Rich and Joanne expanded their vegetable garden to include various kinds of Red Thai, Black Cobra, Trinidad Scorpion, Carolina Reaper, Datil, Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano, and Habanero peppers. They also began making fermentation crocks and experimented with various pepper blends while making spicy pickles.
Their first hot sauce they made was a spicier and more flavorful version of the classic red rooster Sriracha. In February of 2020, what began as a fun Covid hobby, resulted in their first hot sauce sale. The two nurses at the school where Rich taught Ceramics were giving the staff and faculty weekly Covid tests. As a ‘Thank you’ he gave them each some jarred turkey chili and some newly made Thai Sizzle Stix hot sauce. Two weeks later they requested more hot sauce and insisted on paying for it. Once purchased he snapped a picture of the sale and posted it to his social networking apps. Within two days the entire batch sold out! From there on, Joanne and Rich made more hot sauce of different varieties and more fermentation crocks to keep up with demand. Says Joanne: “We had no idea this would take off and we began to think ‘How can we combine this with ceramics?’ What kinds of items would people use during food preparation? We started by creating things that we have made and use ourselves in our own kitchen such as salsa dishes, mortar and pestles, mise en place dishes, and butter crocks.” And thus, Creative Fire Kiln and Kitchen was born because all good things come from Earth, Fire, and Water.