Teacher Jen Shuts leads students through “pinching pots” outside the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts.
PLATTSBURGH – Leah Lacey released a slight grunt as she threw the ball of clay onto the potter’s wheel, sitting across from Philip Yang on the front lawn outside the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh.
“That initial throw gives it some suction,” explained their teacher, Rebecca Conklin. “That’s why you’re supposed to throw it on with attitude.”
As the potter’s wheel spun, Lacey shaped the clay with her hands as Yang occasionally added water to it to keep it moist and ensure it ran smoothly in Lacey’s hands.
The ball slowly began to take its shape as the nine-year-old girl from Plattsburgh made a hole with her hands to create the beginnings of a functional piece.
The students were in clay week, which is part of a course the Center offers called Art Quest. Art Quest is about educating students about art through art history, mixed media, painting, pottery, collage and more.
“It provides kids experience with art and culture,” Conklin said. “Enriching their education with art is important, because studies show that kids who have experience with art do excellent in all areas of education.”
Conklin teaches for the Center and is also an art teacher at AuSable Valley Central School.
The students were making functional pottery by “throwing on the wheel,” a technique used by potters to create even-formed pieces of pottery.
As she described the course, she reached over to help a student with her spinning ball of clay.
“It’s still dancing, but at least now it’s even,” Conklin said.
The class runs Monday through Friday, for ages 5-13, with morning and afternoon classes.
Nearby, another group of students sat on the grass, manipulating balls of clay with their hands, without the spinning wheel.
“We are making pinch pots right now,” said Jen Shutts, another art teacher at AuSable Valley Central School who also teaches for the Center.
Pinching pots is a hand building technique. Students turn the ball of clay, pinching and smoothing it as they go.
They made locking animal lid pots by attaching two pots to create an animal.
“This gives them an opportunity to experiment with clay,” Shutts said.
The class is also about problem solving, expression and critical thinking, she said.
“It’s important to support community art,” Shutts said. “It’s important to give kids the opportunity to be exposed to other things.”
Lacey finds it fun.
“It’s neat to touch the clay.”
Yang, 13, has never made pottery with clay before. He has enjoyed shaping it with his hands.
“You make something original and then you actually get to use it