Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ceramics at the Alki Bath House Pottery Studio

View From Alki Beach, the Alki Bath House is on the left.
 One of the best things about teaching ceramics is that I get to teach at one of the most beautiful places in the world.   The sunsets at Alki are amazing, and there is such a great mix of people, it is the perfect place for people watching and meeting friends.
    West Seattle sometimes feels like a small town, it has a very strong sense of community and the beach culture at Alki allows one to slow down the pace of life to admire the beauty around.
The Alki Bath House is also a historic building, in 2012 it celebrated it's 100th birthday! In addition to being the oldest bath house on the entire west coast, it also can boast as having one of the smallest, yet lovely pottery studios ever.
    The studio has 7 Shimpo pottery wheels and all the tools needed for sculpting, carving, and making pots on a wheel.  We have rolling pins, textured fabrics, and stamping tools for texturing surfaces. There is an extruder for making different shapes. A large canvas table for hand building and wedging boards for drying out clay.  We have glazes, stains, colored slips, and under glazes for finishing.  The work is fired in a 28" electric kiln.  We generally bisque in the cone 04 range, and glaze fire at 5 or 6.  
This is the view looking northwest. The Olympic Mountains make a beautiful background.

   Many of the participants in the pottery program are long time West Seattle residents, but we also get people from as far away as Shoreline.   Occasionally we get visitors who were past participants.  The other day a lady stopped by and said she took pottery classes in the bath house 50 years ago. Another long ago student and long time Seattle resident Margaret(sp?) stopped by the bath house recently.  She had taken classes there many years ago but had to stop a long time ago due to her vision.  She was happy to donate a few bags of clay, dowels, clay boards, slips, etc. because she was cleaning out her house and thought we could use them.  She said she had fond memories of making things out of clay in the old studio.
   Ted Johnson, an Alki studio participant and healer at Admiral Healing Arts, made a short video of me making a cup on the pottery wheel at Alki studio. Although I make it look easy, it takes a lot of practice to learn how to center a piece of clay consistently.  In order to make good pottery a person must constantly strive for excellence.  Over time the quest for quality craftsmanship becomes apparent, and taking time to do things right becomes very important.  As you fine tune your abilities, it is important to try new directions and make attempts at new shapes, sizes, alterations, clay bodies and form.

The studio allows for a wide range of work, we have an extruder for hand building, and a large canvased table for rolling out slabs.  We also have plenty of bowls of slip ready for classes and open studio work.
The program is run through the Seattle Park and Recreation Department.  This summer we have clay summer camps running in mid to late summer for boys and girls.  We have evening classes for adults as well.  Open studio times are available by the instructor.  In the Fall, more open studio time will be offered in addition to morning and evening classes, child/parent classes, and childhood after school enrichment programs.  To register or inquire about ongoing classes see SPARC.
You can also register by contacting the Alki Community Center at 206 684 7430.
An interesting sunset
 In addition to the stunning views, the beach offers wildlife such as Sea Lions, Seals, Otters, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Gulls, Heron, Cormorants, Brants, Sea Ducks, Geese and even a rare whale.  At low tide there are moon snails, crab, and an occasional octopus.  The beach also offers up a wide variety of sea glass, agates, seaweed, driftwood, and other debris.  One time I even found a twenty dollar bill floating in the waves. The sandy part of the beach also has fire pits.  We've even started doing pit firings for pottery right on the beach.  Our next beach pit firing is scheduled for Summer Solstice on June 21, 2013.  We'll set up around 3 or 4 and burn till the evening.  Come join us!

These are some of the wares that were made and fired at the Alki studio.

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