HOLIDAY — School's out but summertime opens the door to trying something new. Maybe take a crack at kneading and rolling a mound of clay into a treasured creation, and learn how to handle such artisan tools as the potters needle, fettling knife and the clay roller that's ever so handy when it comes to flattening slab into workable form.
At the Pasco Arts Center, the making of a marbled vase starts with a ball of brown and cream clay, an empty wine bottle wrapped in newspaper, and the newfound knowledge of how to handle those tools.
Christa Stanelun, 71, a soft-spoken potter who honed her talent in the center's basement workroom, serves as instructor for the passel of youngsters sitting quietly while she demonstrates the steps of creating a useful piece of art.
Slab or hand-built pottery is a painstakingly patient kind of process. It takes time to work the clay, slicing it into pieces — not too thick, not too thin — before rolling them into flat circles that are then scored with the potters needle that's been dipped in water.
"It seems to me everyone's done rolling, squishing and squeezing their clay" Stanelun told her students during a recent class. "Now we're going to put it on the bottle."
Mya McGrath, 11, works with an intense purpose, finishing before the rest.
"Some people have naturally good hands," Stanelun said with a smile as others mixed work with light banter.
Best friends Madelyn Meyer and Emma Peterson, both 10, sit side-by-side building their vases from the bottom up as they chat about the drawing class they plan to take next and their hopes of being in the same classroom when school begins again next month.
"Is that okay?" Madelyn asked her friend, after pressing another piece of clay onto the bottle.
"Yeah, it's perfect," Emma replied before asking the teacher when they'll be able to take their creations home.
Pottery is a step-by-step process, she reminded them. Her students will have to wait a couple more weeks, as there's firing in the kiln and glazing to be done.
But there's a payoff for biding time: seeing the transformation that comes when dull, earth-colored clay is baked in a hot oven.
"You will be surprised how this will come out when it is fired," Stanelun said as she pointed to the pieces of multicolored clay. "All the colors that you can't see now — the terra cotta that is brown will look like red brick, and the little bits of chocolate and white earthenware, that will all be brilliant."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] or (727) 869-6251. Follow @mmichele525.