Friday, November 28, 2014

Pottery experience offers ‘something for the family’

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 11/5/2012

An Ottawa family now enrolled in a local arts class appears to have a pedigree in pottery making.

Three generations of the Scott-Armstrong family are learning to throw pottery in the Ottawa Recreation Commission’s fall pottery class, which teaches students to form clay pieces on an electric wheel.

An Ottawa family now enrolled in a local arts class appears to have a pedigree in pottery making.

Three generations of the Scott-Armstrong family are learning to throw pottery in the Ottawa Recreation Commission’s fall pottery class, which teaches students to form clay pieces on an electric wheel.

Kristeen Scott studies pottery along with her mother Betty Armstrong, 88, Ottawa, and her son, Eric Scott, a senior at Ottawa High School, who each use the class to express their creative capabilities, Kristeen Scott said.

“We’re all artists,” Scott, Ottawa, said of her family enrolled in the class. “I think we get it from mom.”

When she was growing up, Scott said, her mother’s artistic aptitude made for a beautiful home in which to learn about life. Her mother’s abilities appear to have rubbed off on her, as Scott now works as an interior designer in the Kansas City area. Following the creative bloodline further, Kristeen Scott said her son also enjoys drawing and sketches his own cartoons.

The class, taught by Joleen Thompson, an OHS arts instructor, focuses on wheel pottery throwing, but also includes tidbits on hand-building various shapes and objects. Pottery throwing is a process in which a ball of clay rapidly rotates on a wheel, allowing a ceramist to “pull” the clay upward and outward to form a hollow shape. As opposed to throwing pottery, hand-building allows a ceramist to form objects with coils, slabs or balls of clay. After a clay piece is completed, it is fired in a kiln ranging from 1,500 degrees to 2,000 degrees, after which time students can apply a variety of glazes, which are glassy coatings for decorative and protective purposes.

The ORC now is providing both throwing and hand-building classes, and plans to offer similar classes in the late winter or early spring, Brandy Shoemaker, recreation manager with the ORC, said. This semester’s 12-week course is available to people 16 and older and costs $135, which includes clay, supplies and materials.

For those concerned with the difficulty of pottery throwing, Scott said, Thompson is a great instructor. In addition to being patient, Scott added, Thompson also can somewhat simplify the learning process.

“Joleen makes it look easy,”  Scott said. “Having a good teacher like Joleen and the other people in the room has been a really nice group experience for us.”

In addition to learning more about pottery, Scott said she’s also developed a new understanding of the difficulty involved in creating large, handmade ceramics.  

“I go and look at some of the pieces I have bought and I have a real appreciation for the skill level it takes,” she said. “I look at [the pottery] and I think ‘Wow, how do they do that?’”

While she admits to being no Michelangelo, Scott said the group has produced a variety of pieces, including several bowls, plates and a few cylinders. More importantly, she added, the classes offer a fun space to learn and meet other area artists.

“I think we look forward to the group dynamic as much as we do the clay and the pottery itself,” Scott said. “It’s something for the family, it’s something we could do together to enjoy and we have. ... I think one of the best things about this sort of thing is you meet new people, and that’s nice.”

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