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It All Began With A Simple Class

By Andrea Rose The Record Herald, Waynesboro, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Lesley Quesada didn't set out to be a professional potter, let alone sell her wares in a major retail store. But after a friend convinced her to take a class at a local ceramics center, Quesada's path began to unfold.

The Record Herald, Waynesboro, Pa.

Lesley Quesada is probably the only local woman who can walk through a major department store this Christmas and say, "I made that," when she looks at an item for sale.

Quesada, of Waynesboro, has a collection of her pottery at Bon-Ton stores.

But it took a little holiday magic to get there, Quesada said.

An accidental potter Quesada didn't set out to be a professional potter. "I have an art background and work full-time as a graphic designer," she said. "I have a sculpture background."

But last year, a friend convinced her to take a class at the Nicodemus Center for Ceramic Studies.

"We both fell in love with it," Quesada said. "I had worked with clay with my sculpture process. It came naturally to me. It was like riding a bike."

Besides her full-time job, Quesada has four children, ages 3 to 13. "When they go to bed is when I play catch-up," Quesada admitted with a grin. "Working with clay is a good fit for me. It's a stress reliever."

She said she typically spends about 6 hours a week at the studio.

One day, she noticed an announcement that Bon-Ton was looking for artisans.

The retailer was hosting an Online Sourcing Fair which invited local makers, artisans and entrepreneurs with established businesses interested in having their products sold in "Close to Home" shops to submit their products online.

"I submitted paperwork. Months went by. Then I was notified that I made the first cut," she recalled.

"Close to Home" "Close to Home" is an in-store shop that celebrates the best of Pennsylvania with a selection of specialty products and items sourced from nearly 300 local makers, artisans and entrepreneurs.

"We started Close to Home shops in the fall of 2016 and they were so successful, it has grown to over 180 stores throughout the Bon-Ton stores chain," explained Christine Hojnacki, Bon-Ton spokesperson. "It enables us to deliver customers the hometown shopping experience and support small businesses and local makers in the community and around the state."

"Close to Home" shops are available at a selection of Bon-Ton stores, including 19 in Pennsylvania. Quesada said she prepared a sample of her work for Bon-Ton. "I sketched them first and then went into the studio and made a sample of one each," she said.

She was told her LQ Designs were officially accepted into the program in June.

"When I got the first email, I was nervously ecstatic," Quesada said. "I'm not super confident. I'm not a bragger, but I was super excited to brag to my family members."

She was told in November she needed to have everything done and submitted within two weeks. "It was a small order for them, but overwhelming for me," Quesada said.

She rearranged her work schedule and was lucky to find open kiln space at the Nicodemus studio. "Everything aligned so I could meet the deadline," she said.

Quesada's collection includes a cheese and cracker plate, brie baker and a soap dish.

"We look for a variety of quality products. They rotate seasonally and frequently," Hojnacki said. "Pottery was something we did not have in the shop yet. We really liked the look and texture of her product. It's beautiful, yet functional artwork."

Quesada's pottery is on sale in Bon-Ton stores in Hanover, York, Lancaster, Allentown and Doylestown. "It's fantastic for a big company to choose to sell locally-made work," Quesada said. "I feel very lucky."

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