Press Release – FUNKē FIRED ARTS to become QUEEN CITY CLAY under new owners on January 1, 2016

We’re getting ready for some big changes here at FUNKē FIRED ARTS.

We’re proud to announce that the studio has been sold to Ben Clark, our education director, and Denise Chase, a former student.

The business will be renamed QUEEN CITY CLAY when Ben and Denise officially take over Jan. 1, 2016.

As Queen City Clay, we’ll expand our offerings and collaborate more strongly with Cincinnati’s growing creative community.

After 20 years in business, we’re already one of the largest public ceramics studios and clay retail shops in the United States. We serve a range of skill levels, from clay beginners to professional potters and sculptors, while offering activities for families, schools, corporations, and various groups. And we play an important role in arts education in the community, supplying schools throughout the region with materials and training, offering internships and an artist-in-residence program.

Ben has been our studio manager and lead instructor for the past 10 years. He’s a skilled instructor of both beginning clay students and advanced practitioners. He’s also the “glue” that holds our studio community together with his energy and enthusiasm.

“When you first come here, you have no idea what you’re walking into and what the possibilities are,” Clark said. “We have people from every walk of life here, amazing people.”

Denise Chase, a former student with her own small business, will serve as business manager. Her husband, Doug, will handle outside sales.

“Our priority is going to be to reinvest in the business, to expand programs, help the business succeed,” Chase said.

The studio was founded in January 1996 as Annie’s Mud Pie Shop by Annie Swantko. Swantko sold it to Tom Funke in 2005, who renamed its Funkē Fired Arts. Nancy Stella, a one-time student, purchased the business in 2011.

“The transfer of the studio is bittersweet,” Stella said. “I have loved being owner and working with a fantastic and talented staff. Under Ben Clark’s leadership it has developed into a unique community of clay artists. For beginners, this is a place to learn and work with clay and, for professionals, an environment to express their artistic creativity.

“It is time for Ben to take over and evolve the studio to the next level,” Stella said.

Chase sees it that way, too. “Ben has always been the person who should own this studio. He’s always been the visionary, but never with the power to implement his vision. Now he’ll have the opportunity to do that.”

New initiatives are likely to include:

  • More support for and collaboration with Cincinnati’s expanding creative community. Clark wants the studio to be a place where creative thinkers, not just artists, can come together. He sees Queen City Clay serving as a catalyst for more growth in the creative community by bringing creators from various disciplines together and wants to work with other area partners to establish Cincinnati as an arts vacation destination.
  • More education services, including in-school training, and new programs for college students.
  • Additional studio space for artists working in all mediums.
  • 24/7 access to studio workspaces.
  • An expansion of children’s programs.
  • In-depth instruction for advanced clay artists, including more workshops with visiting artists.

“The city has amazing clay roots,” Clark said. “Our new name, Queen City Clay, connects us to our city and its history. I want people not just to feel pride in the business and in the medium they’re working in, but that we are a part of the Cincinnati community and part of that history now.”


Ben has been teaching beginning and advanced pottery wheel students at the studio for the last 10 years, and is currently its education director. He also serves as adjunct professor in ceramics at Northern Kentucky University. Ben has a Bachelor’s degree from DePauw University and an M.F.A. in ceramics from Wichita State University. His own work, in both sculpture and functional pottery, is created primarily on the wheel.


Denise is a veterinarian and founder/owner of Pleasant Ridge Pet Hospital in Cincinnati. She discovered an unexpected talent for small business management when she opened the pet hospital 15 years ago.  She fell in love with clay and with the studio when she began taking classes in 2008. She is very excited for this new opportunity to help Queen City Clay grow and to nurture the people who call it home.