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Nora's Whimsy

Story by Elizabeth Neelley PhotOgraphy by Amanda Cross

It's the entertaining season again, and several weeks ago, some of our Posh staff were given the opportunity to meet artist and pottery designer Nora Fleming, whose goal is to help make entertaining stress-free without having to own a cabinet full of special dinnerware.

Using the slogan "One platter â ¦ Every Occasion," each of her pieces, while simply designed, is created to be personalized with one of many themed miniature figurines (or "minis" as Nora calls them.)

From turkey minis, pumpkins and a Christmas tree to stacked gift boxes, a bluebird, an American flag and a BBQ grill, each mini (and there are dozens for every occasion) turns Nora's classic platters and dishes into custom serving pieces for every type of gathering.

Nora's passion for pottery started when she opened her own pottery painting business after college. Nora says she noticed that a lot of customers were customizing their pieces for holidays and other occasions, so that gave her the idea to start drilling holes in her pottery and then creating miniature, changeable pieces that could be switched out on the item, depending on the event.

She started doing that mainly for her friends and family, when her brother said, "I think you're on to something here!" And 12 years ago, the Nora Fleming line of platters, bakeware and serving pieces was born.

Nora says she's been careful not to grow too fast, and in her own words, has taken "a more organic, local approach to her sales and marketing." She has chosen to sell her product line in more specialized gift boutiques across the country, instead of large retail chains. She has been purposeful in surrounding herself with a fantastic team of people who support and help her business grow and flow smoothly.

An example of Nora's local approach to marketing happens at various "Meet the Artist" events at shops that sell her products, all in various cities. Just recently, Nora took the time to travel to Paducah, to one such event, held at BBQ & More.

These types of events give Nora the chance to connect with her customers face-to-face, to launch new products and to autograph her customers' pieces.

For Susie Coiner and David Boggs, co-owners of BBQ & More, having Nora Fleming visit their store was exciting. "We love building relationships with our vendors. Nora so wants our business to be successful, and we want her business to keep growing and being successful too," said Susie.

Customers were given the opportunity to purchase tickets to a breakfast with the artist, where they interacted with Nora, got their pieces signed and enjoyed an array of breakfast casseroles, fruit and pastries, all served on Nora Fleming dishes. Later in the day, those Nora fans who weren't able to come to the breakfast were given the chance to visit the store for a meet-and-greet with the artist.

One of the best things, says Nora, about meeting her customers, is that she hears stories about how her designs are becoming a regular part of peoples' gatherings and family events.

"I love that we're a part of special occasions and that people have collected my pieces as heirlooms, designed to be passed down or given to a family member," says Nora.

For Nora, it's about simplifying the art of entertaining, unloading the clutter in your cabinets and, of course, having fun! n

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