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Molding the ideal retirement

Pottery and art clubs provide chance to return to lost hobbies

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October 13th, 2017
Pottery club members Charlie Kelly (left) and D Parker work on their clay projects in the Ann’s Choice arts and crafts studio, located in Village Clubhouse.

Pottery club members Charlie Kelly (left) and D Parker work on their clay projects in the Ann’s Choice arts and crafts studio, located in Village Clubhouse.

 

For D Parker, moving to Ann’s Choice fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“I married young, had a family, and put my dreams of going to art school aside,” she says. “But I’d been drawing most of my life.”

Her life changed in 2005. After her children were grown and her husband had passed away, she toured Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., and received a copy of the Tribune.

Inside, she saw a photo taken at Ann’s Choice. It showed the pottery club instructor helping a community member sculpt a clay bust. “That sold me!” says D.

A year later, she moved from her large house in Southampton, Pa., to the most popular one-bedroom floor plan style at Ann’s Choice. 

D had looked at several other home designs but decided on this particular Brighton floor plan when she glimpsed the stand of 100-year-old Chinese chestnut trees just beyond its patio. 

“The apartment wasn’t yet ready for me to tour it, but I didn’t care,” she says. “My face lit up when I saw the trees.”

Shortly after she moved, “I began my adventure with clay,” says D, and she sculpted a bust for her first project. Since then, she’s also joined the art group. 

“The art and pottery clubs are my only campus activities,” D says. “I’m doing my thing.”

Step by step to success

Ruth Kurtz, who leads the pottery club, is a retired elementary school art teacher and lifelong potter who moved from Elverson, Pa., in 2010. Step by step, she introduces new participants into the properties and skills of working with clay. 

The class is the real deal. Most participants come to the group with no experience working clay. They start by manipulating a ball of clay with their fingers to make a pinch pot. Then they progress to rolling out a slab of clay, incorporating a design and shaping an object around an existing form of some type. 

For participants who want to shape clay on a wheel, the club has two available. It also has a kiln to fire the clay.

“Ruth is a great teacher, and it’s a friendly group,” says Lorraine Fitzgerald, who hails from northeast Philadelphia. She joined after an Ann’s Choice neighbor said how much she liked it. 

“I’d wanted to do something with my hands for quite a while, to have something I could call my own that I had made,” Lorraine says. When she joined the club this April, “It turned out I loved it.” 

She’s made small dishes and, for her granddaughters, plaques with floral designs. 

One of the men in the group specializes in miniature footballs. He uses screening to texture the clay and carves the face of an eagle into the footballs. 

Pottery’s added benefits

The pottery group not only provides artistic inspiration as participants see what others are working on, it enables them to develop their own creativity. 

“Some of the things I’ve seen members do inspires me to think I can do that too,” says Lorraine.

“Pottery is also a wonderful de-stressor,” says Ruth. “Working the clay is like pounding the dough to make yeast bread.” 

But whereas breadmakers tend to work in solitude, the potters work surrounded by their Ann’s Choice neighbors.

One participant who was going through a stressful period told Ruth that pottery, and the group, helped her get through it. 

Because of the pottery supplies involved—clay, tools, and glazes—the group charges dues of $1 a week, a bargain for sure.

In addition to working on projects for themselves and family members, some participants also make items to sell at Ann’s Choice’s arts and crafts shows. The next one is scheduled for early November and is open to the public.

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