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tony and sheila give good workshop

updated tue 1 feb 05


primalmommy on sun 30 jan 05

What a great weekend.

I am home again, home again, jiggety jig... and I am dog tired but still
trying to decide whether to crawl into my bed or go out to the studio
"just for a little while" (translated: oops, it's dawn.)

It was lovely, inspiring, recharging a lot of potters' batteries and
sparking new ideas. You know how sometimes presenters in a workshop just
"click" together, and provide a perfect balance? It was like that...

Tony and Sheila Clennell with clay are a beautiful, sensual thing. After
watching how they work together, and apart, and together again, what
they ask of each other and offer each other's pots... it's engaging and
fascinating. We watched the way Sheila's hands move, her practiced
attention to detail that makes clay look soft and alive and touchable,
the deft careful way she can make loose and spontaneous look perfect.

Tony is a storyteller and a charmer, handling clay with confidence and
artistry. He has a way of adding just the right "whoopie" , the simple
caricarture of a spiral, a handful of slip, or swoop, or "wedgie", some
oddity under a foot or handle, so that the surface has its own
topography. It takes a long time to look at a pot like that. His three
little demo cups sitting on the shelf above him looked like they were
doing a joyous little naked dance.

Sheila has a way of taking something we've all done -- cutting a plate,
altering a rim -- and taking it one step beyond, so that with some
subtle changes it is just... perfect. A little bit of clay here and
there, a line in the right spot, a thumbnail dragged through the slip in
a way that draws a gasp from watchers -- "oh! perfect!"

I am fascinated to see (in slides, and stories) their lovely home in
vineyard country, their kiln, their daily life working elbow to elbow in
the room off their shop. They are in the unique position of having
constant feedback from each other and the customers -- looking, buying,
not buying, commenting -- for every kiln loaded, unloaded, moved to the
showroom and sold. They seem to have a nice balance between "I do this
because it is what I want to do" and "I made them this way and they
didn't sell, so I made this other thing I loved instead."

Balance. They both seemed to listen to each other, respect each other's
vision, ask and offer and dance with the clay together. I look at Tony's
big sensuous handles, Sheila's -- suggestive? -- ewers, and have to
conclude that they have a pretty nice love life ;0)

Like all workshops, the clayarters and the members from half a dozen
guilds I met were a big part of the joy. This afternoon was a chaos of
binding cane, elbows and pots as 50 of us made cane handles for the pots
T&S brought for us, as well as our own pots we brought for the project.
In the car on the way home, I even made handles for my teeny tiny pots.
I'll post photos in a bit.

And like every workshop, the ripples of previous workshops and teachers,
stories and friends moved through the experience. I was showing off Phil
Poburka's Bison tools and -- guess what? Phil's cousin was the tall,
smiling man with the video camera, recording the workshop for the
Lansing guild. What a treat! He looked a lot like Phil, in fact, but
more of a 70s version than Phil's vintage aura.

I was showing off my new Chris Henley tools, and lots of folks want to
know -- what's his website? And by the time Tony was through, they were
asking, "How do you join this clayart thing? How much does it cost? "

Every teacher teaches you the best of their teachers, as well. Names,
traditions, memorable quotes, and half a dozen clayarters' names in the
air as discussion covered making, selling, philosophy and business,
aesthetics and politics, technique and ethics, production and artistry.

There was so much going on, so many people to talk to and learn from, so
much activity and stimulation, that it was a singularly decadent
indulgence to climb -- all by myself without cats and kids and hubby --
into an enormous white king sized hotel bed with the Penland Book of

The Lansing Potter's Guild really has it together, and Pamela Timmons
(by coincidence, the woman who years ago turned me on to the The
Artist's Way in her booth at a craft fair) did a great job organizing
the workshop. There was a waiting list to get in and I feel really lucky
to have been one of the 50!

Kelly in Ohio.. grateful to travel partner Ellen Marks who signed us up,
got us there, made good lentil soup and interesting conversation that
made the long drive fly by... and is as bad a navigator as I am, a fact
that we both found hilarious!

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