THE NEW KIND OF POTTERY CLASSES IN VANCOUVER
Artist Gabrielle Burke divulges her journey with clay and the inspiration to teach Pottery Classes in Vancouver, BC.
We’ve all seen it- Patrick Swayze wraps his arms around Demi Moore, and their hands instantly become wet with the sludge of the clay mixing with the water on the vessel she was so carefully throwing. Their embrace is sensual, personal and playful. It’s a pop culture reference that comes to most people’s minds when they ask me what I do, “Oh you make pottery! Like Ghost!”Yes, like Ghost. …Minus the Patrick.
I have been creating vessels since 2004. A lot of love, blood, sweat & tears have gone into my pots. I remember moments of heart break also spent throwing. Moments of excitement when I had my first Etsy sale. Fingers and limbs cut and bruised from different practices. Arms and back weary from wedging and being hunched over the wheel for hours. The clay is my siren and my fate is sealed.
Clay is an addictive medium. It’s tactile. It feels amazing in your hands. It’s soft, it’s wet and smells like earth. It’s hard. Brittle. It changes in so many ways during the process of making. It’s the most incredible thing- I can take a bag of mud, and turn it into something people rely on, on a daily basis.
It touches your lips (and your butt.) You walk on it. It’s in your teeth, lighting fixtures, kitchen cabinets, cars -just about every aspect of your life contains ceramic elements. You pick it up and hold it; posses a symbiotic relationship with it. It’s intimate. That’s what gets me. I create objects that people use in their everyday lives. The journey isn’t finished when I pull the pot out of the kiln for the last time, the real journey is when the piece is taken home.
Ceramics is therapeutic, the studio is where you came come to disconnect from all the emails, the tweets, the DM’s, the texts. You can’t be texting and throwing. All the daily fluff is put away for several hours, and your attention is on the clay in front of you. The studio is a sacred space. It’s supportive and welcoming, the clay doesn’t judge or make assumptions. It does what you tell it. It is yours for the shaping.
Over the past 16 years of making I have volunteered my time and experience teaching students from elementary school to retirees. Every time, people are drawn to the medium because of this magical transformation. The process is so satisfying, and endlessly rewarding. There is always more to learn; another clay body to master; another technique to try. The possibilities are endless.
I consider myself mostly self taught. I begged my high school pottery teacher to show me how to use a wheel, and I stayed everyday untill 8pm. I was one of thirty students in my high school class, and again one of thirty in university. Emily Carr is also very much a conceptual school- so there was minimal focus on learning how to actually make things. I was also eager to learn new techniques before I was able to take the classes. So I tried by myself. Again and again. Over and over. It took me a long time to understand the medium.
One thing I noticed when I was volunteering was that students were mastering the techniques much faster than I did. They would learn things in a class or two that took me weeks or months even to figure out. At first I thought I had just been an inept student. Then I realized the key- one on one teaching.
Classes at g ceramic & co. are small. There are only eight students in each course so that every person, every class gets one on one instruction from me. For me this is incredibly important. My goal is to foster creative exploration and aid in technical skill. It is incredible to have a student at the beginning of a class struggle with a certain technique and work with them to figure out the process. It is a magical process, watching the skills develop as the weeks progress. It’s also an introspective process for me- the students also teach me, and remind me of things that got waylaid in the cycles of production. We are a team: we work together.
Q: I’ve taken a ceramics class before, do you offer intermediate and expert courses?
A: Because of the one on one instruction in the classes, all levels are encouraged to enroll. There is ample time in each classes for everyone to work on their own specific needs. I can give student specific demos and tutorials throughout the class, so if there is anyone you'd like to work on, let me know!
Q: How are the classes structured?
A: Courses run 4 weeks in length, with one class the same day each week. The lesson starts at 6:30pm, but you are encouraged to come as early as 6pm to prep your clay and get settled. Class runs till about 9pm.
Q: What content is covered in the class?
A: All the basics and then some! Wedging the clay, centering, opening the vessel, pulling up, shaping & trimming. Intermediate & Advanced techniques are also available.
Q: What do I get to make?
A:The courses are driven by you! You make what you want. Whether it’s plates, bowls, mugs or whatever else, you decide. I’m here to facilitate your new creative outlet. The only assignment that is required is a throwing exercise in the third week to help build throwing skills.
Q: How many things do I get to make?
A: As many as you want! You can spend as little or as much time on any number of pieces. I of course have recommendations, but those are guidelines.
Q: Can my friends come too?
A: Registration opens up one month before the class starts, so enrol early to make sure you both get a spot!
Q: How much does it cost and what is included?
A: The entire course is $200 plus taxes & fees. You receive a bag of clay, with the option to purchase more if need be.
Q: What happens if I don’t finish all my pieces?
A: You are able to come to Drop In Studio Sessions after you take a class. If you run out of time to glaze in class, you can register for a glazing workshop.
Q: Can I take the course more than once?
A: You can take the course as many times as you like, studio spaces are also available for Alumni.
Q: Do you offer drop in?
A: Drop In Studio Sessions are available Monday-Thursday 6pm-9pm, Tuesday 10am-1pm, and occasionally on weekends. These are for students, previous students, and artists who have gone through orientation in the studio.
Q: What is the best way to contact you?
A: There is a contact form on the website, enrollment is done through email to make sure that you get any questions answered, I find this most personal than having a button on the website.
Q: Do you have any advice for people new to the medium?
A: Be kind to yourself. Experts make things look easy, it's our job. Everyone learns differently, some people are challenged by centering while others may have difficulty pulling clay up. Just like every pot is unique, so is every person. Don't give up, perseverance is key, you CAN do it. I believe in you!