SK alum opens TBD Pottery in Port Orchard

Jacob Cowan walked across the stage at the Tacoma Dome just six months ago, one of hundreds to receive a diploma as a graduate in the Class of 2023 at South Kitsap High School.

It’s fair to say that the 19-year-old alumni has already fared well in molding his future since departing the classroom, creating one of his own with the opening of a new pottery shop and studio in Port Orchard that provides customers with the educational, hands-on experience he had in his high school years.

“I’ve had a lot of inspiration from a lot of great people in my life,” Cowan said in the first days since opening TBD Pottery at 585 Bethel Avenue. “Really what inspired me was the teacher there, Mr. Disney.”

That would be Joshua Disney, an art teacher whom Cowan credits as the inspiration for his love of pottery. For the past few years, he said he’s been captivated especially by wheel throwing and has not wanted to stop since.

“I made it so that my schedule in high school had ceramics every day at the end of the day for the last two years of high school,” he said. “By the end, I had done a total of 13 ceramics classes because I would just TA (teaching assistant) and peer tutor, and I’d just take those over and over again, working on my own stuff and helping people out.”

Cowan’s enthusiasm comes not just from the craftsmanship shown in the final product of each design, but the work it takes to get there and the care and improvements that are molded into each finished piece.

He said, “It’s cool to see yourself improve in something and have a visual representation of your beginning-to-end progress. I have my very first bowl sitting on my desk at home, and I have my most recent pieces here.”

So when it came time to determine the next steps in life after high school, the idea had originally been to study the craft further overseas. Instead, he decided to build his professional career in Port Orchard. “Going to college for an art major didn’t seem worth it to me when I could be doing this now, and I’ve been doing all right teaching classes and making my stuff.”

Cowan has built his business model through appearances at the Port Orchard Night Market and in Revival off Bay Street, and he had help adapting to the business ownership side of things as well. His mother and co-owner of the Port Orchard Grocery Outlet Deeann Haberly-Bovan has had the chance to watch on in the first few days, helping her son settle in.

“This whole journey has been a proud parent moment,” she said. “After COVID, you sort of saw the youth population recluse almost because they weren’t really out and about doing things. To see Jacob spread his wings has been amazing.”

Disney’s thoughts on the new shop were equally as enthusiastic, seeing a product of his teachings make an impact locally. “Jacob has taken full advantage of some of the opportunities we have here at the school, and I am so proud of how he has connected with the greater ceramics community,” he said.

Now Cowan hopes customers will take the same interest in ceramics as he does, and his studio offers several different options to get involved. Pre-made pieces are designated for painting, mini sessions for those to get their hands on some clay and a wide selection of classes are already available. The establishment also has open studio time for glazing and wheel use, and kiln space can also be rented.

There’s plenty to take in for newcomers, but Cowan believes that the first step can lead to a long-time favorite activity. After all, it became a career for him.

“It surprises people a lot of the time how hard it is, but it just takes perseverance. If you stick to it and practice, I think anyone can do what I do. It just takes a lot of practice,” he said.

TBD Pottery offers a wide variety of options for customers to paint.

TBD Pottery offers a wide variety of options for customers to paint.