By: NANCY YATES
Photography by: CHICHI UBIÑA
With the rise of technology, our obsession with our smartphones, and people leading incredibly hectic lives, many are looking for something to make them feel more human and healthy. With its documented benefits as a way to destress, feel happier and improve your sense of emotional well-being, CLAY has taken on a new popularity. For a generation that has lost touch with what it feels like to create something with their hands, working with clay provides an avenue to take us away from the demands of your daily life and reconnect with ourselves. As ceramicist Bernard Leach said: “A potter is one of the few people left who uses his natural faculties of heart, head, and hand in balance – the whole man.” No doubt Brad Pitt would agree as he states in a recent interview to GQ magazine on how he is dealing with the turmoil of his divorce through his new love of pottery. “It’s a very lonely occupation. There’s a lot of manual labor, which is good for me right now… I’m having a moment of getting to feel emotion at my fingertips. If I’m not creating something, doing something, putting it out there, then I’ll just be creating scenarios of fiery demise in my mind.”
Clay has always been popular, especially after everyone fell in love with the potter’s wheel scene from the movie Ghost with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, but it is now considered chic not only among young creatives but also with busy moms, empty nesters, and senior citizens. Pottery connects us to the earth with its over 24,000 year history, and nothing feels more satisfying than drinking coffee from a mug made with your own hands.
Ceramics classes have become one of the most popular classes recently for adults & youth not only in the United States but also in Europe. For classes taught by some of the top ceramic artists, look no further than Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY, a nationally recognized non-profit center for the advancement and practice of the ceramic arts that is currently celebrating its 60th year. It is a place that inspires and supports creation, connection and education.
Looking to get your hands dirty and learn how to use the potter’s wheel? Try Clay Art Center’s one time class, Cladies Night, a 2017 Best of Westchester winner for Best Artsy Night Out. Have fun and get messy in a great date night or girls/guys’ night out. BYOB so you can sip while you sculpt. Offered every Friday night.
Saturday Drop-In Classes are offered for the whole family from September through June. Plan a great afternoon with friends, family or just yourself in this fun and messy introduction to clay for all ages! Professional ceramic artists guide themed weekly hand building projects.
Continuing weekly classes are offered throughout the year 7 days a week for all ages and skill levels, giving us insight into the transformational qualities of clay and its possibilities as a medium for expression. Each class is unique and small in size so students can focus on their individual growth while being part of a larger clay community. Their studio is well equipped and their instructors are dedicated and skilled artists. They offer focused classes in wheel throwing, hand building and sculpture as well as classes in which students are shown a variety of techniques on and off the wheel.
Clay Art Center was founded in 1957 by Katherine Choy, a visionary 27-year old immigrant from Hong Kong, who left her assistant professorship in ceramics at Tulane University and moved to Port Chester to fulfill her dream of establishing a center for the advancement of ceramic arts. Ms. Choy was a talented ceramicist whose experimental sculptural forms, featuring broken shapes and brushed glazes, evoke Abstract Expressionist paintings. To this day her work is included in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, among other museums, and prized by collectors throughout the USA.
Many of the leading ceramicists of the last 60 years have passed through the doors of the center either as teachers, as exhibiting artists or to rent studio space and work within an impassioned, inspired, nurturing community of fellow artists.
American ceramic art underwent a renaissance in the 1950s, and CAC played a crucial role in the reemergence of ceramics as an art form that is now an important part of mainstream contemporary art. American contemporary ceramic artists are today celebrated at art fairs around the world, and their work can be viewed at major shows in museums and galleries in New York and throughout the USA. CAC has had an indelible impact on some of the top artists in the field, and many well-known ceramists spent their formative days defining their style and learning from their peers at the center. Important figures in the field of ceramics such as writer, curator and educator Dr. Judy Schwartz, as well as noted MA gallery owner Leslie Ferrin, both worked at CAC early in their careers. Additionally, CAC’s gallery, which is dedicated to hosting exhibitions for emerging and established talents, is where noted artists Julia Galloway, Justin Novak and Tim Rowan all had their first solo exhibitions, which propelled their careers. Each has since exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad and their work is in the permanent collections of major museums such as the Smithsonian and the American Craft Museum.
Today CAC is as vibrant as ever and as committed to the support of ceramics and ceramicists. The CAC gallery continues to exhibit some of the nation’s most talented ceramic artists, both emerging and established, and provides studio space for advanced potters looking for an artistic community and, sometimes, collaborators for experimental projects, while the CAC artist-in-residence program supports four young American artists every year. The center also hosts myriad events and workshops taught by nationally known artists, as well as a popular summer camp for kids, and sells handmade, one-of-a-kind functional ceramic pottery and sculpture by local artists at the Shop at CAC (open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm).
In 2017 Clay Art Center is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a series of classes, events and exhibits titled RE/CLAY, exploring their past, present and future while chronicling the development of the center from their first blue prints to the cutting-edge technologies currently in use in their classrooms and studios. Five core exhibitions have run from January 29th through November 11th alongside community exhibits, a walking tour in New York City, workshops, lectures and a culminating symposium, all underlining why it’s time to “re-look” at clay.
Craving some clay? Get involved by signing up for a weekly or one-time clay class at Clay Art Center for adults, children and families. Book a clay party for adults or children and celebrate an occasion while exploring the magical qualities of clay with your friends. Book a corporate team building event for your business, corporation or organization and build better working relationships using clay as the perfect medium. Attend an exhibit at Clay Art Center’s gallery which hosts seven exhibitions annually, featuring ceramic work by mid-career and established artists from across the nation showcasing the breadth and scope of contemporary ceramics, all open to the public and free of charge. Clay Art Center also welcomes individuals, groups and school groups for a free tour of their facilities tailored to your specific age group or area of interest. Join in the fun as Clay Art Center celebrates their 60th anniversary year and discover the transformational qualities of clay. 40 Beech Street, Port Chester, NY 10573 (914) 937-2047.