By: David Tulloch

Two Algonquin graduates recently bought The Mud Oven, “a paint-it-yourself ceramics studio,” located at 1065 Bank St. They both agree that they couldn’t have done it without their college experience.

Katie Hately, 27, and her co-worker, Sarah Matusiak, 29, bought The Mud Oven in 2010 after graduating Algonquin just a few years before. Hately attended Algonquin’s pre-design course in 2005. She then studied graphic design in 2006, graduating three years later. Matusiak graduated the introduction to fine arts course in 2010.

They both agree that attending college was instrumental in their success with the store.

The Mud Oven is equipped to take a customer through each step of the creative process. When a customer enters the store, they are able to choose from a multitude of items to create: plates, mug, figurines, or other decorative items. After the item is created, the customer is able to paint it however they like. Once completed, the customer pays for the supplies used to create the item and takes it home.

Hately worked part-time at The Mud Oven while attending college. Although she got along very well with the owner and her coworkers, including Matusiak, she left after graduation to find a job in graphic design. However, the economy soon crashed, and Hately returned to The Mud Oven.
Matusiak graduated the one year introduction to fine arts program in 2010, and credits it with her decision to purchase the shop.

“I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go through with taking over a business without attending college,” she said. While she admits she has always been a creative person, the fine arts program was able to help her discover where her true talents and interests lay.

When it came time to purchase the shop, it was Hately who took the first step. She knew that the current owner, an elderly woman, was preparing to retire and she was concerned about the fate of the shop. An offhand joke to her boyfriend soon turned into a full-fledged plan to make the purchase. A chance meeting with Matusiak at a bus stop confirmed it – they would buy the shop.

Though neither of them had any experience with owning a business, they both grew to love their jobs immensely. Hately describes her favourite part of the job as being her own boss. In her eyes, one of the largest benefits of running the store is the day-to-day experiences.

“Everyday is something new,” she said. “It’s exciting, it’s fun. I never want to work for anyone ever again.”
Just the other day, Hately was absorbed in her work when she was roused by a wailing child. With a look of concern, Hately asked the girl what was the matter.

Andrea Emery, Hately’s typography professor during her time at Algonquin, isn’t surprised that Hately is working in an art shop.

“Even in school, she loved to get her hands dirty. She liked to try new things.”

For Matusiak, the real joy in the job comes from seeing the customers let their creativity flow.

“Even people that normally aren’t really creative tend to find joy in creativity,” said Matusiak.

Hately completely agrees. “People find it calming,” she said. “And that’s the most rewarding concept – giving art to people who don’t have it in their life.”