Why Not Throw a Pot?


Cahaba Clayworks in Leeds is the studio home for Tena Payne and Larry Allen, both professional potters and expert craftspeople. Payne supplies upscale restaurants and specialty shops with her earthenware serving pieces, while Allen creates distinctive stoneware vessels.

During a recent visit for a day of classes, I took instruction from several gifted artists on staff.  Despite their own hard-won expertise, these instructors demonstrated unending patience with our group of intrepid new potters.  We envisioned pieces well beyond our abilities, then panicked when an unintended indention or curve didn’t match our ambitious plans.  Fortunately, these guys were able to restore or salvage all of our work, encouraging our every effort.

Somewhere during the mesmerizing process of watching the wheel spin and feeling the clay yield, I accepted that this was not a quick craft project but rather a process of discovery.  Besides the human touch, the glazing and firing processes further distinguish the results, and even experienced potters can’t always predict the outcome.  You have to let go of precision and embrace the unique nature of the medium.

In addition to the potter’s wheel, participants can build from clay starting with flat slabs (think platters, plates, or a decorative tile) or cylinders (think mugs, pencil cups or vases).

This activity would be great fun for a group of girlfriends or as an independent pursuit for your own relaxation.  You may discover and nurture a talent you never knew you had, and you’ll have something to show (or hide!) for your efforts. Classes are held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, and a Saturday class is also planned.