When you open the door to Clayworks, your senses are immersed in the smell of earthy, mineral clay and the sight of ceramic works of art glazed with striking blues, greens and bronzes.Hands work molding blobs of cold clay into three-dimensional art. The gray dust left from hours of sanding covers the floor.Clayworks is a destination for those who are drawn to the time-honored art of pottery. It is dedicated to offering a spectrum of artists – from learners to seasoned professionals – an opportunity to stretch their horizons working with clay. The nonprofit organization, located in the old Purple Pickett building on Monroe Road in the Oakhurst community, is one of the largest clay studio and ceramic educational facilities in the United States. Only studios in Minneapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia have larger programs.Clayworks, which has been in existence for almost 20 years, prides its steady growth from the community’s interest in promoting the arts. As part of this ongoing support, it will host a fundraiser Nov. 9 at the Elder Gallery on South Tryon Street. This is an opportunity to see professional ceramic works of art by some of North Carolina’s finest artists, including some of Clayworks instructors and studio artists. The works will be sold in a silent auction and raffle. Proceeds will help to maintain Clayworks studio space and continue its educational and outreach programs.“We welcome everyone to come and look at the beautiful clay works being offered,” executive director Adrienne Dellinger said. “Artists from the Charlotte area, Penland School of Crafts and other regions of the state will be donating works for auction.” Proceeds will provide money for the Clayworks budget, which includes maintaining the 15,000-square-foot studio. Dellinger would also like to pay for new gallery space in the front building and bring clay artists from across the United States to teach classes.These lofty goals are nothing new for Dellinger. Born and raised in the area, Dellinger’s relatives come from a long line of traditional potters who settled in Lincoln County in the 1760s. In 1994, she graduation from East Carolina University with a bachelor of Fine Arts degree and moved to Charlotte to became part of the clay art scene. She apprenticed for a local potter, and taught pottery at the first Clayworks, which was part of the Spirit Square arts and education center uptown.In 1998, Dellinger became studio manager. Clayworks split from Spirit Square to make a go of it on its own. For the next 13 years, it worked out of spaces on Euclid Avenue and Ninth Street. In 2005, Clayworks was granted nonprofit status.Dellinger wanted a studio space that could be a permanent home for Clayworks. The old Purple Picket building had fallen into a derelict state after the economic downturn.“When we came to look at the building, homeless people were living inside,” Dellinger said. “The board thought I was crazy when I said this was the perfect space. I could see through all the roughness.” In 2011, they moved in.Today Clayworks’ studio space is home to 24 artists. Last year instructors taught about 8,000 students, including everyone from beginners to professionals seeking master classes. Works of art can be fired in one the 11 electric kilns, a gas-fired kiln, a Raku kiln and the newest addition, a salt/soda kiln. The kilns provide artists options for as many glaze colors and effects as they can imagine. A dream of Dellinger’s was to start a clay-mobile for educational outreach. With the financial assistance of the Women’s Impact Fund, the mobile van now serves the community. “I’ve been dreaming about having the clay-mobile for eight years,” Dellinger said. “Now that it’s here, I want to see it going out into the community every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays.”
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013
Charlotte fundraiser Nov. 9 at the Elder Gallery offers ceramic works of art
Nancy Thomason is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Nancy? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less