Although originally built as a house around 1900 (next to the coal building in photo to the right), the building has served as both a metal fabricating shop for an HVAC business and as a wood shop before becoming a pottery studio. Dondero and her partner, Clyde Yates, purchased the studio & its neighbor building from Glenn Dillard, Jr. in 2014.
Mr. Dillard's grandfather started Dillard Coal Company during the Great Depression, selling Southern Star Coal for Athens residents to heat their homes from the building on the railroad tracks. At one point, a coin-operated coal dispenser near the road boasted its product for sale day and night! As coal fell out of fashion, Dillard Coal Co. transitioned to HVAC, using the neighboring house (now studio) to fabricate the metal ducts necessary for forced-air heating and cooling. After Mr. Dillard retired, the space was rented as a wood shop for 15 years.
In December 2015, Dondero started the task of cleaning and renovating the building; vacuuming years of accumulated sawdust from crevices, adding doors and windows to let in more light, and painting, painting, and painting some more. Some of the first tenant artists pitched in with the work and on February 1st, 2016 Southern Star Studio was open and the first 6 artists began moving in and making pots!
Since then, the space has gone through many iterations and transformations, hosting over 35 potters over the 7 years its been active. Not only is it a space for artists to come together and help eachother, but it is an outlet for many beginning potters to sell pots. For the Athens community at large, it is a cultural center that hosts community events and offers tons of beautiful, affordable local art is available to purchase.