Folk artists find inspiration, space to create in Kane and Kendall counties

By Cathy Janek For Chronicle Media

Sue Norris and Mary Jordan owners of Crow’s Nest Studio, met at a ceramics class around 20 years ago at Waubonsee Community College. (Photo by Cathy Janek/for Chronicle Media)

After first meeting in ceramics class at Waubonsee Community College nearly 20 years ago, Sue Norris and Mary Jordan today operate Crow’s Nest Studio and Gallery, tucked inside a former chicken house on the grounds of Spring Bluff Nursery in Sugar Grove.

The studio specializes in wood soda-fired pottery that creates “a different, interesting surface,” according to Norris, whose family also runs the adjacent nursery.

The pottery is often a choice for wedding gifts or Christmas presents.

Each year, the two artists make a few hundred pieces of their pottery, including mugs, plates, vases, and decorative items, which are sold on-site.

Many pieces have outlines of birds, including the store’s namesake, in the designs, because Norris said, “I like crows. I like their personalities — they are tough and noisy.”

The two women had a wood kiln built on the nursery grounds, and guests often come to see the firing process.

“It is something very unique around here,”  Jordan said, because most pottery today is made using an electric kiln.

The studio also sells homemade soy candles from SK Candles and soaps made by Norris and her sister under the name Two Sisters Soap Co.

Crow’s Nest Pottery is part of a growing network of artisans who have made the greater Fox Valley region their home.

Crow’s Nest Gallery on Norris Road in Sugar Grove is owned and operated by Sue Norris and Mary Jordan. The gallery is located in refurbished chicken house. (Photo by Cathy Janek/for Chronicle Media)

Located in Big Rock, Esther’s Place offers classes in knitting, crocheting, and felting to create artwork or wearable items and sells kits for many different types of fiber crafts.

For Natasha Lehrer Lewis, owning Esther’s Place has been a dream come true.

Twenty years ago, her family first ventured out to the Aurora Municipal Airport from their Oakhurst home in a quest to find a rainbow ultralight glider.

“We fell in love with the landscape,” Lehrer Lewis said.

Hearing of a farmette – land that is over 5 and under 50 acres — up for sale, her family made an offer and, despite higher bids, the farm was theirs and became home to Lamb of God Farm and Big Rock Organics.

The family quickly purchased two sheep — Lily and her baby Tulip, and added Rosy a few months later, Lehrer Lewis said.  “They became our little flock” which has grown to 23 sheep.

Living on the farm since she was nine, Lehrer Lewis said, “I fell in love with fiber arts when I was a teenager.  It was really just my thing.  I loved to knit.”

The original owner had a dream of owning sheep, so  Lehrer Lewis already had a loom. “She also had all of these supplies. Someone else gave me a spinning wheel,” she said.

Sitting down at the wheel, she said, “I just sort of figured it out.”

Some of the pottery wares for sale at the Crow’s Nest Gallery in Sugar Grove. Artists Sue Norris and Mary Jordan use a traditional wood-fired kiln. (Photo by Cathy Janek/for Chronicle Media)

As Lehrer Lewis, who was homeschooled through 12th grade, began to mull over her career or post-high school education options, she said she decided, “I would love to have a spinning and weaving shop.”

Farming sheep for wool, Lehrer Lewis explained, “just wasn’t profitable.  It costs $4 or $5 to pay someone to shear a sheep, only to receive $1 for the wool.”

She then pursued and received a state matching grant to add value to an agricultural product and connect agricultural to education.

In 2006, Esther’s Place was born with a mission of taking fiber, processing it, and marketing it.

“Our focus is to provide classes in a fun and relaxing environment for all ages and skill levels,” she added.

In the shop, craft kits designed by Lehrer Lewis are available for purchase — many of which come with online tutorials.

In addition, two rooms are available to rent upstairs for a mini B&B.

Esther’s Place also has a “farm-based focused” and hosts farm- to-table dining events, cheese-making, and canning classes.

Lehrer Lewis also frequently conducts classes at area libraries and local community colleges.

“It is a wonderful community that we built here,” she said. “On Fridays, I have a group of regulars who come sit and stitch. They are welcoming and kind to newcomers and always bring food.”

Natasha Lehrer Lewis, owner of  Esther’s Place in Bog Rock, is creating fiber flower art. Esther’s Place offers classes in knitting, crocheting, and felting to create artwork or wearable items. (Photo by Cathy Janek/for Chronicle Media)


Esther’s Place

201 W. Galena St. (RT 30), Big Rock

Hours: Tuesday, Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 pm.

Closed Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.

Phone 630-556-9665,


Upcoming Events (Fee required)


Sunday, Aug. 11, 1 to 5 p.m.

Free-Form Crocheted Flower Pin

Friday, Aug. 16 10 a.m. to noon

Natured Inspired Art

Unicorns/Zoo Pocket Pals

Friday, Aug. 16, 1 to 3 p.m.

Children kindergarten through 8th grade.

Sheep to Shawl Spinning

( including lunch),

Thursday, Aug. 15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Crow’s Nest Studio and Gallery

41W130 Norris Road, Sugar Grove

Phone: 630-466-4278;


Hours: Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,

Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


David L Pierce Art and 

Aurora Historical Society Gift Shop

20 E. Downer Place, Aurora

Phone: 630-256-3340

Hours: Wednesday to Saturday noon to 4 p.m.

The gift shop features one-of-a-kind City of Aurora apparel, books and gifts.


Olde Farm Creek,

10151 Lisbon Road, Yorkville

Phone: 630-553-0628

Hours: Friday and Saturdays from 10 a.m. .to 4 p.m.

and Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

Features farmhouse, vintage inspired décor, made by local artisans.  Open two weekends per month and every weekend in December.


The Tea Tree Shop,

29 N. River St., Batavia

Phone: 630-425-3340;

Seventy-five varieties of fresh loose-leaf teas, balsamic vinegars, olive oils, freshly ground and blended spices, and essential oils are available.


Vintage 71 Shops

10711 State Route 71, Yorkville

Phone: 630-244-5161

Shop includes an assortment of vintage, retro, off-the-wall salvaged and repurposed items for your garden, home, or wearables from artisan consigners.