SHERIDAN — Stephen Mullins loves clay. Working with his hands to create something out of nothing energizes him through extended hours at his version of an office: a studio that features him, elbow deep in clay.
Mullins loves his job so much that he often finds himself working diligently into the early hours of the morning to fulfill orders for eager customers. Each creation — while sometimes produced in mass for a certain cause, event or business — is unique, holding its own character.
“I love working with clay,” Mullins said. “The process is intriguing and there’s nothing like forming something on a potter’s wheel like something out of clay. It’s really sweet.
“On that same token, when somebody else works with the clay and it’s their first time and they finally get it, the look on their face or they get really excited, that’s really cool.”
Mullins transitioned his online business, Red Bison Studio, into a storefront, opening his doors on Grinnell Plaza in June 2018. In 2019, he moved his storefront to North Main Street and offers more space for students of his classes for all skill levels. Nothing similar existed in Sheridan; by opening his business it provided another option for crafters wanting to pursue pottery.
“I just wanted to be a resource for the community and then also have an outlet for my stuff,” Mullins said. “The whole thing is really cool. I wanted that to be available to people.”
Mullins taught ceramics class in Sheridan and a few other locations before throwing everything into his business, but the teaching element never fully left him. He continues to be inspired by other potters out of Montana and the region. Beyond folks in his medium, Mullins looks to other successful business owners to push him forward. Mullins looks up to them but also collaborates with them to share space in each other’s storefronts and as a part of fun and innovative projects.
Mullins’ work can be seen throughout Sheridan. Mugs — his signature creation — are featured with specific tailoring to the culture of Fly Shop of the Bighorns and Bighorn Design. Full sets of dishware are used by Smith Alley Brew Co., stamped with the new brewery’s logo.
Mullins’ key to success is being aware of what’s going on around you and doing the things you need to do to stay motivated and on the right track.
“Having a good group of people you can rely on, I think that stuff is really good,” Mullins said. “Working hard, things like that.”
In the rare moments Mullins is not pulling late hours in the studio, he’s spending time with his wife and little ones and upping his movie game by watching new releases and old classics.
Mullins, while living out his dream as a store owner and playing with clay all day, provides a fun outlet for community members throughout Sheridan.