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Accidental artists

Pottery club collaborates, learns from each other

Created date

January 24th, 2012

For a dedicated group of artists at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., molding beauty with their bare hands is an extraordinary gift many of them found quite by accident. I had never tried working with pottery before [moving to Greenspring], says Marguerite Church. When the pottery club began in 2005, I joined to be supportive to my friend Priscilla Woods, a professional potter who was eager to bring the art to our community. In fact, I didn t think I even liked pottery. I had always preferred fine china. But I gave it a try, and I was hooked. When my grandson was 11, he took a pottery class in school, says Loretta Nowakowski. He had a natural talent for it. I joined the group so that I could work with him. Now four years later, he no longer works with pottery, and I can t get enough. I love it.

Striving to be unique

From its inception, the Greenspring pottery club has created all of their original pieces entirely from scratch, hand-working the clay rather than relying on a pottery wheel. We really wanted to create art that was unique, says club member Helen Moot. Starting from scratch is the only way you can truly do that. In addition to hand-molding the clay without a wheel, the pottery club has always mixed its own glazes and loaded the kiln.

Name change

We decided to call ourselves a workshop, because as time went on we found that we were learning so much from each other, says Marguerite. We all work very collaboratively, says Helen. We are often asking each other, How did you do that? It is wonderful that we are able to share information and learn from each other. Everyone has something to bring to the workshop. The pottery workshops are now offered four times a year for ten consecutive weeks. The artists meet either on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings. Our goal is to give new students the basics and then let them go off and do their own thing, says Marguerite. This way they are able to develop their own style. As an individual s style develops, we can begin to [identify] each other s work. Marguerite is especially proud of the sets of dishes she has created for her son, daughter, and two grandchildren. I used the lace from a nightgown I brought with me from China to press a pattern into the dishes, she says. Workshop member Helen See is best known for her unique and intricate figurines. I began by making vases and bowls, but before long I had so many of them I decided to try sculpting figurines, she says.

Quick learners

Paul Quinn, a relatively new member to the group, began working with pottery a year and a half ago. I have always been interested in art, he says. When I moved to Greenspring and learned about the pottery workshops, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to try. Paul calls his figures whimsicals. He says, I choose to create something that reflects the season and is fun. Ernestine Brown is the group s newest and one of its most enthusiastic members. I ve been interested in crafts all my life, she says. But pottery is something I never worked with, and I was excited to give it a try. In the ten weeks Ernestine has been working with the pottery workshop, she has created almost ten pieces. My goal is to create something special as a gift for every member of my family, she says. Joining the pottery workshop has been wonderful. I have learned a lot. I was surprised how physical rolling out the clay can be. I simply love the feel of the clay in my hands.

Giving back

The workshop s most prolific members enjoy giving back to their community. They sell their art at Greenspring s campus stores as well as the annual art show, village fair, and Christmas bazaar, all for charity. Most of our new members make items for themselves and their families, says Marguerite. But those of us who have been doing this for a while make items to sell. I am very proud of the fact that we have a purpose beyond our own enjoyment. We ve discovered that Greenspring enjoys what we do, says Loretta. We take pride in that. I love the fact that neighbors, staff, and even family members come back to buy our works each year. Some even place orders! Now embarking on their seventh year as a group, the workshop members look forward to what the future holds. Many times, what you think you are going to create when you pick up your clay is very different from what comes out of the kiln, says Helen See. Every piece has a life of its own. The more we practice, the more we learn, the more originality we bring to our creations, Loretta says.