Time to get muddy

Time to get muddy

Troy’s Artistic Earth Pottery offers escape

By Melody Vallieu

Artistic Earth Pottery owner Mark McGraw works on shaping an urn.

Amy McGraw adds glaze to wheel-thrown mugs.

Mark McGraw cleans up the joints on the handles of a set of wheel-thrown mugs.

Artistic Earth Pottery owner Amy McGraw works on a hand-built mug.

Artistic Earth Pottery owner Amy McGraw smooths a hand-built mug.

A simple birthday present turned into a career.

Amy McGraw bought her husband, Mark, a gift certificate for a pottery class at Artistic Earth Pottery. That started a year’s worth of classes, even eventually purchasing their own wheel and kiln for use in their Englewood home.

“We went into it 1,000 percent after that gift certificate,” Mark said, admitting he had missed the form of art he knew as a teenager. “And I kind of have a knack for it. I am ambidextrous, that really helps with the wheel.”

“I’ve been very crafty in a lot of different mediums over the years, but this was a good fit,” Amy said.

Beginner excitement

Mark said making pottery is beneficial in more ways than one. He said after working in a high-pressure job — where he eventually was downsized — he would come home, have dinner and go to their basement studio for hours to work on pottery. It was therapeutic.

“We were both doing professional jobs … doing the grind,” Amy said.

When approached by the studio’s owner to purchase equipment before she closed the store, which had been open since 2004, the couple instead took a leap of faith and purchased the entire business.

“It’s something you can lose yourself in. It can help take away the day-to-day stresses of life,” Mark said. “And, in the end, you’ve got gifts for all your friends and family.”

The McGraws, who recently bought a home in Troy, explained they’ve also taken classes in Dayton.

“Since we’ve only been doing it only for a little over three years, we really feel we can provide the instruction for a beginner to get into it,” Amy said. “Giving them the basics and helping them grow that way. Getting them the feel of it, teaching them what they need to be successful.”

They’re still learning. They’re still growing. They’re still excited.

“The biggest challenge I have had has been the glaze chemistry,” Mark said, explaining he makes their glazes instead of buying them. “To make them different colors, mattes, runny, to see how they will come out.”

His signature glaze is a matte finish with a “real buttery feel” and is black and white, he said. He said he is now working to get the same glaze effect to work in other colors.

He said different glazes offer unique finishes on individual pieces, which makes the pottery even more personalized.

“Opening that kiln is really like Christmas morning for an adult,” Mark McGraw said.

What to expect

Classes for children, adults and groups are loosely organized.

“Classes are open forum. We don’t have a template,” Amy said. “We work one-on-one with them for the first six weeks.”

As students gain experience, the McGraws leave them to work independently — and at their own pace — with instructors present to answer questions.

“It’s very open to what they are interested in. We just try to give them the bones, the structure to be successful at it,” Amy said.

The studio is furnished with three electric kilns, seven Brent pottery wheels and one Shimpo wheel, hand building stations, a North Star slab roller, a Brent clay extruder with dies, Kloppenstein trim wheel, and hand tools and brushes.

In addition to all the equipment, there are several comfortable working areas in the pottery studio. There is an area for group parties to gather, a few tables set up for hand-building or coil work, plus a complete station set up for decorating and glazing.

“Everything a potter could need or want is at your disposal,” Mark said.

Decisions, decisions

Mark said pottery pieces can range from decorative to practical, with some being strictly handmade and others using the wheel.

Popular adult items range from name plaques, handmade jewelry and beads to casserole dishes with lids, cheese trays and salt pigs. Small bottles for items such as hot sauces to bigger bottles that hold maple syrup or beer growlers also are popular, he said.

“You can even make your own tiles for your backsplash,” he said.

Fairy houses are popular among children right now, he said, and are often the item chosen for birthday parties hosted at the studio.

For the holidays, Mark said pinch-pot pumpkins and snowmen are fun to make, and handmade ornaments are a classic favorite.

“This is now our passion,” Mark said. “We would love to share this passion with anyone who has a creative mind, has a few hours to spare each week and loves to get muddy.”

PLAN A VISIT

Artistic Earth Pottery

12 E. Canal St., Troy

To learn more, visit artisticearthpottery.com or search for Artistic Earth Pottery on Facebook.

To sign up for classes, contact 937-839-2529 (CLAY) or artisticearthpottery@gmail.com.

Salt Magazine