Mike Macone knew he was artistic right from the start: no one had to tell him.
His mother was an artist and she, no doubt, saw his talents early on, but when asked, Mike shrugs his shoulders and said, “I just always knew.”
Because he made art the focus of his life, he had very humble beginnings for his craft to working in humble environments to eventually moving to a garage owned by a church. His goal was to produce fine art.
He took his fine art, mainly mirrors and vases to craft shows, traveling far and wide along with his wife, Rebecca.
He found that tagging onto shows that featured really expensive fine art pieces increased his own sales. After all, his eighty dollar mirrors looked like sale bin pricing when they were put up against original paintings that went for thousands of dollars. He added art lamps to his line.
He did well at Renaissance Festivals, and this is where what he does now, began.
A fellow artist mentioned several times that Mike should add a few words to his mirrors. Eventually, he did and they sold very well. That was good news and bad news. The good news was that he realized the potential immediately that people liked words in their art.
The bad news was after six weeks at a festival, he had to scramble to produce more items to market in order to make up for the all the ones he sold. This is when he hired his first employee.
In 1985 when the Nike Corporation came out with their slogan, “Just Do It”, Mike capitalized on the verbiage and made his own items which read, “Joust Do It”, seeing he was marketing to a Renaissance crowd that came to the festival in period dress reminiscent of the days of Robin Hood.
Meanwhile Rebecca increased their family with four children and now what started out as a one-man operation, had slowly exploded into a series of connecting buildings which start with the design and production studio, where now nearly one quarter of a million pieces per year, consisting of tiles, from drink coasters to ones with sayings that hang on the wall, are made, sold and shipped around the world.
The little 20 x 20 foot outlet sale's room grew into a large and beautiful gallery featuring not only their in-house art, but also art from so many of the artists they met while they traveled to shows across the United States.
When a large building neat to their operation and on the other side of a driveway became available, the Macone's bought it and their art endeavor burst out in a completely different direction.
The basic idea was to provide someplace people could sit in the shade while they waited for their self-painted pottery to be fired using the Raku method.
The Potter's Shed is still one of only a few places in the US that does Raku, and during the summer they fire every day. It draws people like a fish boil does in Door County: it's functional because a product comes out of it, but it's also performance art as the pottery is removed from the kiln at bright red heat and subjected to post-firing reduction (or smoking) by being placed in containers of combustible materials, which blackens the clay and causes crazing in the glaze surface giving the piece a smoky overlay. Each piece turning out with a different smoke pattern.
They decided to buy the building next door and turn it into that cool place out of the sun that served ice cream. It eventually became the Shed Cafe that can seat forty and serves breakfast and lunch items and gourmet coffee drinks.
The back part of the building became the Creative Zone where people of all ages gather to paint pottery pieces that range from dishware to vases and almost everything in between. Keeping up with the times, mosaic art has been taken off the menu and replaced with drop-in sign painting.
The Potter's Shed, or more accurately, Spooner Creek Design, the name of their studio, has always had a wood shop where display cases were made. Now the shop is turning out wood for signs and frames and the sign designs have gone tech with the use of computer graphics.
The beauty of this new sign business is that you can sign up for a class, or just walk in off the street every Saturday from 10a to 4p and paint some pottery or make a sign, using your own ideas and designs.
Black Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, from 10a to 4p will not only be a time to create art, but also to buy it with twenty-five percent off the gallery pieces and up to half off of selected pottery pieces and some jewelry.
The driveway between the buildings was turned into a garden with waterfalls and ponds and seating areas, all landscaped for beauty and shade and music.
This is where the concerts are held, which is another art endeavor.
For the past several years the music part of the business has taken off from the original days ten years ago where Rebecca took the stage, being a singer/songwriter and guitarist, who performed.
Riding on the popularity of the venue, local bands were invited to play and sing and now, the music that usually is performed on Friday or Saturday nights during the summer, is at the Shed stretching into the fall and winter months.
The concerts were so popular that the original outdoor seating for one hundred and twenty-five grew into enough room to accommodate four hundred and fifty. The increased space provided a business opportunity for their thirteen grandkids because they are the ones who run the food stand in the back area, buying, selling and keeping track of their inventory and food trends of the buying public.
This Saturday night, the Shed will feature The Last Revel in concert with a fifteen dollar entrance fee. Concert time being at 7p. This three-member band of multi-instrumental talents have just released their third album of folk, rockabilly, old-time spring band and rock and these guys from Minneapolis are on their way to the big time, so if you want to be able to say, I heard them right before they hit the big time, don't miss this great concert. If you'd like a sneak preview, go to thelastrevel.com and listen.
At this point, all their business endeavors have been a success, Mike crediting his common-sense wife with talking him out of some of his more crazy ideas.
But with all these accomplishes under his belt, Mike was beginning to think there was no other place for this business to grow, but the Macone's found a location in Florida and have opened a gallery in Fort Walton Beach that's doing very well and is named, You Need Art. In fact, their website is called You Need Art Now and it's where you can go to not only see their products, but order them too.
Their products are sold in all fifty states and overseas and just when they thought they had hit a sales wall, Zulily.com came calling asking them if they wanted to get in on a three-day sale discounting their tiles.
The sale ran from Friday through Sunday and part of the deal was that they had to get the tiles that were purchased in the mail by Tuesday.
Everyone scrambled to make it work and it was a complete sell-out and maybe this might be a new idea to pursue.
Thirty years after Mike started creating art in a garage, they've got a studio, a gallery, a garden, a cafe, a creative zone, and a music venue with practically their entire family of four children and their grandchildren involved somewhere in the business.
If you think this is where Mike retires and just takes it easy, you don't know Mike. He's already buzzing with ideas for the future. What's interesting though, is this is the man who started out marketing his fine art is back to creating fine art again with a growing collection of lamps like no others.
It's been a big circle, but he's back to the beginning and is still humble enough to credit just about everybody else for his success.