A new year is a perfect time to take on new challenges.
That's what your local Patch squad did recently when we took a one-day Wheel Throwing class at Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio.
Think Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost — minus the soundtrack.
Basically we had two hours to learn all about wedging, shaping and trimming. When all was said and done, each of us had two bowls ... er, vases. Well, let's just say we all had something made of clay to show for it.
Dress for mess
We arrived at our class bright-eyed and ready to go. Our instructor, Brenda Pescia, one of five ceramic instructors at the studio, taught art in Lake Orion for 15 years.
"You're going to have fun here," she told us, "But it's not simple."
We put on black aprons and headed to the first station, the wedging board. The job here is to get the air pockets out of the clay. Slamming the clay around is also a nice way to get out those hidden aggressions — although the more peaceful among us compared it to kneading bread.
"I think of clay as my therapy," Pescia said. "I can relax and get into the piece."
With a fine piece of clay, we each took a stool at the electric wheel. The speed of the wheel is controlled by a little pedal, like a car — but not a race car.
"Everything at the wheel is slow," Pescia said. "Move in inches."
Laikind had warned us to "dress for mess," and this is where we all got as messy as preschoolers. The wheel involves clay and a lot of water. I honestly can't remember last time I was elbow-deep in clay, but it certainly felt good!
Creating a masterpiece (or something)
With the wheel spinning a slow and steady speed, the real work began. First we used our fingertips to drill a hole in the center of the clay to open it up.
And then for the really tricky part: pulling the sides up. Again, our hands did all the work as the wheel slowly turned.
You might think the words to "Unchained Melody" would be going through your head at this point, but really, you're just too focused on not ruining that piece of clay to even consider it.
"The ultimate goal is the same thickness throughout," Pescia said.
Easier said than done!
My first piece took a bad wobble and — whoops! It has a hole in its side. It's instantly disqualified from holding liquids.
My second piece came out much better. I could actually eat a small serving of cereal out of it — with milk!
Now all that was left to do was sign our works and clean up our mess.
Since we were working with wet clay, it needed to dry out for at least a week before it could be bisque fired. We left our pieces in Laikind's capable hands. She assured us she would glaze (that's the color) them appropriately.
Sure enough, when I picked them up a few weeks later, they were the perfect "Patch" green!
Firebrick offers eight-week class sessions as well as group parties. Classes include Wheel Throwing, Hand Building and Tile Making. Winter sessions are under way now.
If you can't wait for the Spring sessions or are not ready to commit to eight weeks, workshops are a nice option. There are some fun one- and two-day workshops on the Firebrick schedule for February and March. Here's what's coming up:
- Wire-wrapping: Learn the techniques of wire wrapping around a piece of stone that you can turn into a pendant. All materials are provided. This one-day class is offered Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $40.
- Herb garden markers: Make six herb garden markers out of clay. Sounds like a perfect Mother's Day gift to me! The class is March 7 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All materials are provided. The cost is $25.
- Clay wind chime: This two-day workshop will leave you with a beautiful clay wind chime to hang in your garden. The classes are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 8 and March 22. All materials are provided. The cost is $50.
- Abstract painting class: This one-night class offers Friday night fun! Create an abstract painting using a squeegee and acrylic paint. The paint is provided. Students must bring their own 18x24 canvas and squeegee. The class is March 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $25.
Spring classes start the last week of March. Watch the Firebrick website for details.
Firebrick Gallery is located at 404 South Main. It's open Tuesday and Wednesday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Call 248-650-2500 with questions or visit their website.