Co-op offers community of clay for artists


Caroline Slack

Student-made pottery pieces sit in the UVM Pottery Co-op in L/L Jan. 21. The Co-op has offered classes, materials and a creative space for students since 1974.

Isabella Alessandrini, Staff Writer

Located on the first floor of the Living/Learning Center, UVM’s Pottery Co-op is a hub for creation, education and community all wrapped up in one cozy little studio.

Since 1974, the Co-op has offered classes, materials and a space for its members to learn about and create all things ceramic, studio manager Olivia Hartwig said.

For  $110 per semester, UVM-affiliated members of every skill level can enroll in a pottery course and take full advantage of the clay, glazes, demos and kiln provided by the Co-op, Hartwig said.

There are eight courses to choose from that cater to beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Some courses are specific and process-based, focusing on a final project, studio director Bech Evans said.

One called “afternoon tea” culminates in a formal tea party where the students drink tea and have tiny sandwiches using the wares they made throughout the semester, Hartwig said.

Plates, mugs, teapots, bowls and a variety of other functional and nonfunctional clay creations line the shelves and surfaces of the studio, all in different stages of completion.

There’s the delicate, gray-colored greenware which hasn’t yet been fired in the kiln, light pink bisqueware that has been fired once and finished glazeware that has gone through two firings and a finished glaze, Hartwig said.

Some of the skills taught at the co-op include hand building, wheel throwing, glazing and trimming none of which you’re expected to know how to do prior to taking a class, Evans said.

“Oh, I don’t care how good your work is,” course instructor Chris Behr said. “Just that you’re willing to come in to the studio and be persistent enough to learn something new.”

Shaping a supportive community of potters is another important goal of the co-op in addition to education, Evans said.

Students in Behr’s classes tend to share tools, tips and stories as they gather and throw clay on the potter’s wheel, he said.

“It’s definitely a nice community to be a part of,” said junior Lindsay Van Gelder, who plans to continue her membership this semester. “I love how therapeutic it is to throw clay.”

Sophomore Gabi Freeda, a current Pottery Co-op member, had plenty of positive things to say about the environment within the studio.

“There’s always music going and people engaged in their work, but if you need help the person next to you is always willing to show you how to do something,” Freeda said. “There are people of all levels so you really get a wide range of work and skills available to you.”

As inclusive as the Pottery Co-op strives to be for potters of all levels, it can be quite competitive to obtain a spot in the studio, according to Hartwig.

“We have to cap the number of people we can accept to 125 members, sadly, to maintain the high quality of our studio,” Hartwig said.

On registration day, the classes tend to fill up “Black Friday-fast,” but those who don’t get in the first time are placed on a waiting list and encouraged to apply again next semester, she said.