COVENTRY — Olivia Williams needed an escape from the frequent negativity she’d been seeing online since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. So, equipped with a variety of art supplies and plenty of terracotta flower pots, she began to design and make handmade “pot people.”
What began as a distraction — a way to keep her mind off of the overwhelming news cycle — soon became much more.
“I can put my phone down and focus solely on doing these, and it makes me happier,” Williams said Tuesday, around a month after embarking on her crafty endeavor. “And when people buy them, seeing how happy it makes them, it makes it even more worth it.”
The idea to create “pot people” came to Williams as she perused Pinterest one day — she’d come across a similar project, and decided she’d give it a go. She posted photos of her first creations to a local Facebook page in hopes of spreading some cheer, and the responses she got were overwhelmingly positive.
“People kept asking me if I was selling them,” Williams said. “At the time, we could use the extra money, so I decided I’d sell some.”
Williams had never anticipated people would want to purchase her creations, she added. Now, she’s booked with orders until September.
“I just posted it so it would be something to look at in the [Facebook] group,” she continued, “and people kept commenting that they wanted one. It was just really surprising.”
Williams has created a group on Facebook, “Liv’s Pot Creations,” to display and sell her pot people. Photographs shared to the group show some of the finished products — from pots stacked and painted in the likeness of The Golden Girls, to pots that look like Disney characters, it's clear Williams can make adorable pot people to resemble just about anyone.
She’s happy to receive custom requests, as well.
“Today, I did some Star Wars ones; tomorrow, someone wants Winnie the Pooh,” said Williams, who’s even taken a few orders for pot people resembling customers and their loved ones. “So I’m doing a lot of different things. It keeps it interesting.”
One of her favorites to make so far was an Army man. Dressed in a camouflage uniform complete with a name tag and faux plants growing from his cap, he waves an American flag and wears a big side smile.
The intricate design took Williams some six hours to complete.
Williams is also fond, she said, of her “Wizard of Oz” pot people — a Toto pot boasts curly brown fur and a cute puppy face; Dorothy dons her signature blue gingham dress, alongside the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow.
Those pot people were the first character requests Williams had ever received.
“I was nervous I couldn’t pull them off,” she admitted. “They came out great and it’s what encouraged me to keep making them.”
Williams makes on average three or four pot people each day, keeping track of her orders in an agenda book. She hopes to continue creating her pot people long after the pandemic has ended, she said, and is considering turning the project into an official business.
“I’m a crafty person, but I’d never considered doing something like this for a job,” said Williams, who studied culinary arts after graduating in 2016 from Coventry High School. “But to have income now from doing something that I really, really like — I’d like to be able to make that permanent.”
And while she hopes her pot people can offer a bit of happiness to others, Williams also wants to encourage people to find their own means of positive distraction.
“If you’re sitting at home and you’re constantly on the internet, it’s not going to make you feel any better,” she said. “I just encourage people to find something that will get them off their phones and out of all the chaos that’s going on.”
Williams has created an Etsy account through which she’s taken a few orders from outside Rhode Island, but most of her sales have been made through her “Liv’s Pot Creations” Facebook group.