Cabinetry Knobs Opened the Door to a 50-Venue Occupation

Sue Salvaterra Hintz cuddles with an unpaid assistant.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

For a long time, Sue Salvaterra Hintz was happy with the solitude of her potter’s wheel and her basement studio. But the success of Salvaterra Pottery changed that. 

In fact, her business outgrew several basements, and she could no longer keep up with demand. Today, Hintz runs a 2,500-square-foot commercial building in Weaverville, with two employees who help produce mugs, bowls, chip-and-dip plates, and other tableware.

Salvaterra Pottery now includes home-decor items, framed by woodworker Randy Hintz, Sue’s husband.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

The former UNCA administrator has been a potter for 22 years (she took college-level ceramics classes on the side). And yet she is speeding up instead of slowing down, especially with a new mortgage on the production facility and showroom she moved into a year-and-a-half ago.

“I honestly always knew that I wanted to own my own business, but I didn’t know what that business was going to be,” she says. “The pieces just really fell together for this to happen.

“I was completely infatuated with the whole pottery-making process. So, I went half time at the university to build up some business. It’s a leap of faith when you leave your state job that has benefits and everything to pursue what you think you should be doing in life.

“When I [started] making some money doing pottery, I left the university altogether and became a potter full time.”

Since then, her business hasn’t stopped expanding. For a five-year stint, she made cabinetry knobs sold in Home Depot stores. Glazed in the jewel-toned blues, purples, and greens of the local mountains, her wares are carried in more than 50 venues east of the Mississippi River. 

Salvaterra’s signature pieces evoke the colors of the Blue Ridge.
Photos by Clark Hodgin

Although her main product line, mugs and bowls, includes many constants, Hintz isn’t afraid to add items. Some come from the suggestions of customers or shop owners who notice a specific need — bacon cookers, batter bowls, and Brie bakers. The potter has also begun to produce home-decor items, many in collaboration with her woodworker husband Randy Hintz; these include framed figurative tiles and coordinating vessel sinks and mirrors.

“We’ve placed more of an emphasis on it since we have our own studio and gallery where we can showcase ourselves,” she says. Getting to the point where she needed additional employees has pushed Hintz to change how she views the process. It’s no longer the luxury of a solo passion.

“It was a natural transition to go commercial. I was really starting to lose my social skills,” she says. “When I started hiring employees, I didn’t really want to [at first], because I liked the private time. But in retrospect, it was really good for me to get some people in the business. I’ve become a healthier person. Now I’m at a place where if I have no one working with me, I feel a bit lonely.”

Sue Hintz, Salvaterra Pottery, 30 Cole Road, Weaverville. Salvaterra Pottery is also sold at Kress Emporium (19 Patton Ave., thekressemporium.com), Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., woolworthwalk.com), and New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way, newmorninggallery.com) in Asheville; at Sanctuary of Stuff (440 Weaverville Road, sanctuaryofstuff.com) in Woodfin; at Blue Owl Gallery (11 North Main St., 828-456-9596) in Waynesville; at Seven Sisters Gallery (117 Cherry St., sevensistersgallery.com) in Black Mountain; at Carolina Mountain Art Guild (444 North Main St., 828-696-0707) in Hendersonville; and at Something Special Gift Shop (12 West Main St., 828-682-9101) in Burnsville. For more information, call 828-658-0684 or see salvaterrapottery.com.

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