PLanes: Retired Teacher Duo Stays Busy with Pottery, Woodworking Businesses 

by Bethaney Phillips

On Saturday mornings you can find Paul and Paula Lane at their local Farmer’s Market. Many afternoons you can find them at 4th & Court, showcasing their handmade work in rented space. It’s a gig, they said, they enjoy being able to take on after decades of teaching. Both were English teachers with USD 379 before retiring after 28 and 26 years, respectively.

Now, they’ve taken on a different type of career path: handcrafted wares. Paula creates pottery, such as dishes, mugs, berry bowls, and more. While Paul creates wooden cutting boards, vases, and charcuterie boards. 

They are respective skills that each has honed for years, but now in retirement, they said, is their time to share the hobbies with others. 

Three to four days a week – taking breaks to chauffer their granddaughters – the pair work in their own studios: Paul in the garage, and Paula in the unfinished basement, where she said there’s no fear of slinging mud against the rock walls.  

“Every minute spent with our granddaughters is a joy so that doesn’t pull us away from anything,” Paul said. 

PLaneware Pottery

Paula’s love of working with clay started in high school, then expanded when dating Paul and he built her a pottery kick wheel. Then she picked up an old kiln at a garage sale. From there she began creating gifts for friends and families, especially for Christmas. But she had never considered selling anything, she said. 

“When I could I would hop on and it was just something I did for fun,” she said. “When you’re both English teachers you don’t have much free time.” 

Then when she retired in 2021, they invested in a new kiln and an electric wheel — though she still uses her sentimental model to trim – and various colors of glaze.

“It’s really nice to have hobbies; you get to stay creative,” she said. 

Paul added that the goal – with either venture – was never to make money, but just enjoy their time. 

Everything Paula makes is by hand, and though she said she is getting more successful, she still makes mistakes and has to reconfigure shapes into something new. 

“It could start as a pitcher and end up as a spoon rest,” she laughed. “It happens maybe more often than I would like.” 

P.Lane Woodworking

Meanwhile, Paul said he’s always enjoyed woodworking but didn’t have a place to do it. In 2010 they built a shop – a two-car garage with one door – ensuring he would always have space to build. 

“I tell people I take big pieces of wood and cut it up into little pieces,” he said. His favorite wood to work with is maple, adding in dark walnut and more, depending what he likes at the time. 

“That’s where my art comes in, I put a combo of wood pieces up there and see what I like,” he said.

Just like they had done after Paula’s retirement, the two purchased equipment for Paul’s hobby to outfit the shop. 

“We came back with big, nice equipment,” he said. “I thought ‘I’ll never pay for this, it’s just for fun.” You get old and you can do those things,” he laughed. 

The Lanes began attending farmers markets where Paul would set out handcrafted cutting boards and other items intricately laid with contrasting wood hues. 

“We thought ‘What the heck?’” Paul said. “We weren’t making it to sell but had some product.” Their items were a hit, and from there they began producing more.

“We’ve been very blessed with this community,” he said. “We enjoy making it, but when you make functional things and people come back, it’s a reward.”

Since starting, the pair have added to their collection as far as what they offer, styles, and began taking customized orders. They also joke that Paul is more symmetrical; his pieces contain the same colors and sizes on each piece, while Paula is more free and creative with shapes. 

“People will ask for different items in a pattern or glaze,” she said. “That’s been really fun. It pushes me into something I haven’t done before and gets me out of my comfort zone, which is good,” Paula said. 

A History of Handiwork

The pair have been sharpening their handy skills for years; together they’ve flipped 14 houses, completing virtually all of the work themselves; Paul said he doesn’t like drains or laying concrete, but the rest is fair game. 

With both working full time, two kids in tow, and Paul working as the head high school coach – in a time where coaches had to physically meet to exchange VHSs – most of the work was done throughout the summer. 

Their house, which they have lived in for 30 years, has had each room redone at least once, they said. The house was built in 1898 and has a sister house a few blocks away. The pair said when they purchased the home several people told him it would be too much work. 

“They weren’t wrong, they were right. It was a ton of work,” Paul said. “We bought some houses that were rough, but we were able to turn them into something really pretty,” Paula added. 

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