Kate Matsumoto sits on the edge of the sidewalk outside of Hickory Clay at 2710 16th St. near Harrison Street. Feet planted between the parked cars, she leans forward with a hand-made bowl in her lap. She’d attract little to no attention if not for the rough, repetitious sound of her sanding.
“I’ve always loved the process of seeing people on the wheel,” said Matsumoto, a four-year potter.
She spends her days designing digitally as a product designer for the online marketplace Etsy. But it’s not the same as working with clay.
“I wanted to do something that would get my hands dirty and make me feel more connected to something tangible, rather than something that exists in the digital space,” she said.
For her, pottery has been a means of decompressing and finding community. She often gifts creations to family and friends, and sometimes takes commissions. Her favorite part of the process, and the messiest, is throwing the clay to change its shape.
When pottery workshops shuttered during the pandemic, she transitioned to hobbies like breadmaking, cooking and sketching to fill the void.
“It was like you were cut off from that tactile joy of making something with your hands, and you were also cut off from the community,” she said.
With her employer’s blessing, she moved here from New York last July, after her fiance landed a job at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
Around seven years ago, she lived in the Inner Richmond and graduated from University of San Francisco. This time, she chose the Mission District for many of the usual reasons: “the best weather in San Francisco,” “the best food” and a location near the center of the city.
She also appreciates San Francisco for the access she has to different places, especially as a biker who often heads to Sausalito and visits family in Marin.
While she has seen the city change, Matsumoto said she still has the same “butterflies-in-stomach” feeling she had about San Francisco seven years ago.
“I don’t see myself leaving San Francisco,” she said. “I think this is likely where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”