Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Learn something new (or again) in a pottery studio

Posted 9/8/2013 4:15:00 PM

I’ve always said that I have the memory of a gnat. A few weekends ago, I proved myself correct.

It all started at my son’s school’s First Grade Parent Orientation. Sitting at a desk that threatened to bruise the bottoms of my knees, I was thrilled as I listened to what was to come. I actually started to become a bit jealous. So when the opportunity arose to do some learning of my own, I jumped at it. “Pottery,” I thought. “I think I might like that.” I called Redbird Studio & Gallery in Columbia and asked if I could come in the next Saturday to learn about throwing during an studio session.

If you want to learn to throw, this is one of the best types of places to do so, as it’s owned by local artists Virginia Scotchie and Bri Kinard. Scotchie is an internationally known ceramic artist whose works have garnered numerous awards and recognition. Kinard recently earned a master’s degree from the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Since returning to Columbia she has shown her work at the Scripps College Ceramic Annual and participated in Columbia’s “Install It 3,” the installation art component of Artista Vista. The two artists have combined their talent to teach and inspire children and adults in search of a space to explore creativity with clay.

I set my son up with a playdate, called a sitter for my toddler, and headed over to Redbird, excited to try something new and creative. Kinard set me up with at a wheel and proceeded to get me started. She slapped a lump of clay down in front of me and proceeded to explain how to center the clay before setting to work. I noticed that she looked at me a little funny when I proceeded to do as she said. Next, she patiently explained how to get the clay started; how to make it malleable so that it would become the bowl that we planned to form. Again, she looked at me a little funny.

“Have you done this before?”

I opened my mouth to say no, but then stopped. Wait, I had done this before! I fuzzily remembered hanging out in front of a kiln at the school I’d attended in Wisconsin in fourth grade.

Kinard moved on to show me the next steps, then asked me again, “You’ve thrown before, haven’t you?”

“I think it’s been about 15 or 20 years,” I said, still unsure.

After a while, the group of six- or seven-year-olds at the next table were eagerly calling for Kinard to come help. She told me that she’d just leave me to it, and I fell into a state of relaxation that had been missing from my life for the past week as I coaxed a couple of shapeless, lumpy orbs into smooth, petite bowls.

So, my attempt to take a class doing something new failed. Once again, my gnat-like memory gave me something to laugh at. All wasn’t lost, though. As clumsy as I usually am, I can’t wait to see the look on my husband’s face when I’m able to bring the cute little clay bowls home. And the peace of mind that I achieved during the hour I spent in the studio is definitely something I’ll go back for.

Pottery throwing is one of those rare arts that can successfully be practiced by anyone. The shapes that come out of the clay are often an indirect or unintentional expression of each individual. Those with extreme artistic talent, Like Kinard and Scotchie, can take the craft to levels of expression few can achieve, asking questions of the mind, of society, and of the laws of physics with their creations. The rest of us are lucky that there are skilled people like these artists who are willing to share their space and expertise.

There are many such places around South Carolina, many of which have classes and open studio hours that are open to all. Here’s a list of just a few of the amazing pottery studios offering classes around the Palmetto State:

* Color Clay Café -- Greenville
* Earth Art Pottery Studio -- Charleston
* The Pitter Platter -- Lexington
* Hearts Of Clay -- Spartanburg
* Hartworks Stoneware -- West Union
* The Mad Platter -- Columbia
* Fire and Earth Pottery -- Charleston
* Wink Pottery -- Florence.