Paducah’s Newest Cottage Industry Entices a New Terra Cottage Dweller
TAKE A STROLL DOWN N. 7TH Street in Paducah’s Lower Town, and you’re likely to catch a glimpse of ceramics artist Michael Terra at work. The large front window of “Terra Cottage”—the new home and workspace of Michael, wife Victoria, and daughter Xan—is designed so that outside passersby can see what’s happening inside. Perhaps you’ll decide to stop in for a snack at the cookie bar adjacent to Michael’s workspace, and perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to strike up a conversation with the artist.
And what an interesting conversation it will be.
Michael Terra makes a living selling his hand-crafted wares at galleries and shows throughout the country. He is friendly, unassuming, and down-to-earth. His soft-spoken demeanor is inviting, and his background and experiences are fascinating.
An artist whose work is collected by aficionados around the country, he has also worked (and been licensed) in architectural design, general contracting, plumbing, and masonry; he has built a wind and solar powered home; he is a chef of French cuisine and taught culinary skills in Paris; he has managed a private French dining salon using food pharmacology, where each meal came not from a menu, but was decided upon and made to order based on the diner’s desires or needs at the moment; he has several undergraduate and graduate degrees, biophysics and psychology among them; he teaches art classes and workshops in multiple subjects in locations around the U.S. He speaks French with near fluency. And he has chosen Paducah as his home.
Or, more precisely, Victoria—Michael’s wife of 21 years—chose Paducah, and the family agreed on the place they would begin the next chapter of their lives. Michael, Victoria, Xan, and older daughter Artie, who is now away at college, had moved from Lopez Island, WA, back East to help care for Michael’s mother in upstate New York. After her death, the family was ready for a change and began thinking about different possibilities of where they might like to live. Victoria began researching artist relocation programs and hit upon Paducah, which was attractive due to its location and the relative maturity of its artist relocation program.
“The Midwest is a strong market for us, and there are several cities within a six-hour drive-time radius of Paducah,” explains Michael. “Chicago is our best show annually.” And the Terras found Paducah’s program more appealing than those just getting off the ground. “Instead of being at the point where the city is promising something, it’s nice to join something already in progress,” Michael says.
Michael and Victoria visited Paducah last January and enjoyed a neighborhood potluck hosted by LowerTown residents Patience and Bill Renzulli. They quickly decided that Paducah felt like their “philosophical concept of home” and began searching the city for property. They purchased an old building at 514 N. 7th Street, made plans for extensive renovations, and thus began the “Paducah” chapter of their lives.
“The ability to get the loan at Paducah Bank is part of what has made this possible,” says Michael. The Terras worked with Larry Rudolph, Senior Vice President at Paducah Bank, who was “very charming, very clear and informative,” remarks Michael. “Larry has been indispensable in guiding us to get the right homework done, which allowed us to craft a good business plan.”
Michael and Xan moved to Paducah in June, while Victoria and Artie put things in order in New York. A trained actress and an artist in her own right, Victoria has a weaving area at Terra Cottage. She home-schools Xan, and the two work together at the cookie bar.
Although customers can walk in and purchase Michael’s artwork here in Paducah, it is primarily sold at shows and galleries throughout the country. Thirty-five galleries currently offer Michael’s work for sale, and the Terras travel to 30 art shows a year.
Michael and Victoria began a blog about their “Paducah adventure,” with regular updates and photos of the re-modeling project. You can visit the blog and learn more about their combination home/workspace/gallery at www.paducahpossible.blogspot.com, or visit their website at www.terracottage. biz. And while you’re visiting, go ahead and stroll down N. 7th Street, where you will surely decide to stop in and visit at Terra Cottage.