Caryn Fried’s home wasn’t just a home.
“We taught classes there, we had a gallery there where we sold our work, we had studios there,” she said, describing the plot of land in Santa Rosa where Fried and her husband Wayne Reynolds, both potters, worked and lived for 44 years.
The Glass Fire has reduced to rubble their Valley of the Moon Pottery, a 4-acre parcel that included their home and studios, along with five kilns, eight pottery wheels, thousands of pieces of pottery and 5,000 trees on their Christmas tree farm.
Theirs is one of the 600 homes confirmed destroyed in the Glass Fire so far.
“Our whole livelihood is gone,” Fried said, speaking to J. from a nearby hotel where she and Reynolds had taken temporary sanctuary.
Fried, 72, and Reynolds, 81, met in Oakland, sold their pottery on the streets of San Francisco early on, and bought the Santa Rosa property and its accompanying Christmas tree farm in 1986. There they worked and grew their pottery business, with a gallery that sold Fried’s sculptural figures, Reynolds’ paintings, and many of the pots the two of them made. It’s where they raised their daughter, fashion designer Maya Reynolds, and taught ceramics classes to the community.
“A lot of people, they’d come to Sonoma County [and] they’d come to our place because it’s like an art gallery,” she said. “And then it was our home! We lived there. And absolutely everything was destroyed.”
Fried and Reynolds were evacuated as the fire approached on Sept. 27. Fried said they’d been evacuated so often over the past decades that this time she just threw a couple of items in the car, not taking it very seriously.
“This time it was just like, ‘the wolf cried too many times,’” Fried remembers thinking.
They drove out toward the ocean, not particularly worried. Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky of Chabad of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa even drove out to deliver food to Fried, who keeps kosher.
Fried said she assumed that the large tree farm, which was watered regularly, would keep the area damp enough to ward off fire from reaching the other structures. But after the fire passed, Wolvovsky asked a local law enforcement officer to send some pictures so Fried and Reynolds could find out what happened. The photos depicted a grim reality.
“Our place went to rubble,” she said. “Like a war zone.”
The Glass Fire was burning over 66,000 acres as of Tuesday, with 50 percent contained. Since it began in the early hours of Sept. 27, nearly 300 homes in Napa County and 315 homes in Sonoma County have been destroyed, plus another 800 nonresidential buildings across the two counties.
Only a few scorched clay statues remain where the thriving pottery business once stood. Fried said the damage will be particularly difficult to deal with because the fire didn’t leave behind scorched earth but rather tons of rubble from brick, tiles and clay that will have to be removed.
“We made — by hand — thousands of pots,” she said. “Each one was individually crafted.”
The couple anticipates that insurance will not cover debris removal and rebuilding. Their daughter set up a GoFundMe page asking for donations to begin the work; the total surpassed $21,000 in less than a day.
But it’s not just about money. It’s also about the loss of highly valued pieces of art, including the fruits of their many years of labor, as well as the art by others that they’ve collected over the years. And it’s a community loss, too. Generations of Santa Rosans have come to choose and cut their Christmas trees at Valley of the Moon, visit the gallery or take classes at the studio.
“The love that’s been pouring out has been heartwarming and helps a lot,” Fried said.
At first when she heard that they’d lost the pottery and their home, the news was so disheartening that Fried assumed they’d never move back. She was sad and deeply angry at what fate had brought them.
“I was like, I don’t care if I ever see that property again,” she said.
But when she stepped back onto the property after the fire, something changed. In spite of the blackened walls and skeletal trees, she felt a renewed love for the land.
“My heart just almost exploded in love,” she said. “I was like, I just love it here. This is my home.”