GTPulse: Have Your Demi Moore ‘Ghost’ Moment at Clayspace TC
Every October I watch all of my favorite Halloween and horror movies throughout the month. A movie on the list that I haven’t seen yet is Ghost, the 1990 romance starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Despite never seeing it, VH1 documentaries like ‘I Love the ‘90s’ always showed that one scene. You know which one I’m talking about. Demi, an artist, is sitting at her potter’s wheel, and the ghost of her banker boyfriend (Patrick Swayze) embraces here while she’s working. She ends up messing up the pot she was working on in the name of ghost love, and though the scene was meant to be a sexy display of their persevering love for each other that transcends the mortal world, it made throwing clay look…sensual. Upon visiting Clayspace TC, a ceramics school in Traverse City, it seems the art form has a hold on people. Whether you’re learning for the first time or revisiting the craft, ceramics at Clayspace TC is made accessible and fun for all.
The studio is owned by Phil Wilson and Clay Maas. The studio is located on Barlow in Traverse City and previously housed Blackbird Arts. Phil and Clay are both artists who used to teach at Blackbird and it was there that they met.
“My job at Blackbird was a lot different than it is here. I taught screen printing, a little letterpress printing. I actually don’t think I even taught ceramics besides the occasional birthday party really. But I had always made pots when I got started at with Blackbird as a volunteer person, kind of doing the dirty work, and then just making pots on the side. And that morphed into kind of teaching in any capacity that I could,” Clay said.
Despite his name being fitting, the studio is not named after Clay. A Tuesday morning class came up with the name. Classes run morning through the evening at Clayspace TC, with Clay teaching at night and Phil teaching in the morning. Lincoln, the general manager, is Clay’s dog and keeps morale high.
“What we try to do is have classes across the spectrum of the daylight and evening hours. So people who are able to come in the morning do that, people who are not have access to evening class hours. Then twice a month there’s a Thursday evening class Clay hosts, sort of what we call a try-it session. So anybody who’s kind of curious about the potter’s wheel can come for a couple of hours and get some instruction and get a feel for what it’s like to throw on the wheel,” said Phil.
The twice a month Thursday classes run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For some, those try it sessions are a welcome way to get out of the house and try something new. For others, it’s a moment they connect with. Those students who have an a-ha moment while trying out the wheel are encouraged to come back for classes if they want to learn and experiment more.
“Working with clay, in a general matter, what you do with it is just very immediate. I mean, anybody can pick up a piece of clay and without thinking about it, manipulate it and make something happen whether they even had any intention of it. So it’s that kind of direct and very tactical qualities of clay that make it a great medium to experience, but a really great medium to teach with as well. A lot of ideas can be taught using clay just because it’s really accessible,” Phil said.
Working with clay is a great way to unleash some untapped creativity, but it’s also unexpectedly therapeutic. It engages the senses. Touching, watching, and listening are all involved with throwing clay. It’s an earthy experience that guides people into a natural state of focus and calms with the careful concentration it requires and ASMR like sounds that accompany it. And like any art, it takes time and intention to create something. In our busy, stress-filled lives, working with clay requires the potter to leave any ruminations of the day behind and give all of their attention to the clay.
Classes are offered in different lengths ranging from three weeks to eight weeks, and students are given studio time to come work on their ongoing class projects. For the seasoned potter who wants a studio to go to but doesn’t necessarily need extra instruction, access to the space is available for purchase either weekly or monthly.
Plenty of beautiful mugs, pots, vases and other items cover the shelves inside the studio. I asked if any of these things are ever available to purchase.
“For the most part, people are not interested in selling per se,” Phil said. “There are a few who are just beginning to dabble in a little selling situation here and there. But that’s unusual. And we’re not a retail situation at all. It’s strictly a teaching studio. So we don’t encourage or discourage, people can pursue that and it’s a way maybe for some people to support their habit a little bit at some point, but mainly people are really very motivated just by doing this thing and gratification of making, making things that they are happy with and proud of. It’s the making more than anything else.”
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