Clay studio instructor Carmen Elliot has a favorite memory.
Once, a child from one of her classes approached her with a beautiful stepping stone decorated with sea turtles and four shades of green.
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Location: Community Clay Studio, 200 Plant Road, Chapel Hill
When the student called the clay piece “the favorite thing that she had ever made,” it became a treasured memory for Elliot, who has been an instructor at the Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio for more than 35 years.
Last fall, the clay studio formerly known as the Lincoln Art Center relocated to the Parks and Recreation building in Chapel Hill’s Community Center Park.
And now, as new programs are about to start at the studio, its supporters are glad to have a place to continue throwing clay around.
Butch Kisiah, director of Chapel Hill’s Parks and Recreation Department, is happy to have the studio in his building, he said.
“It had been a part of our program for a number of years, but there was a possibility that the studio would have to close if it did not relocate.”
The new space was converted from a combination of a garage and office area, Kisiah said. The area is not ideal and lacks storage, but it is working.
“I cannot imagine the world without art,” Kisiah said. “It would be a very boring place.”
The studio offers classes for ages ranging from four to 80, and students often return for multiple classes to build upon their skills.
Elliot said that her afternoon children’s classes are her favorites.
“Kids are high energy, but very freeing to have in the studio,” Elliot said. “They can physically create with a forgiving, intuitive object that they can squeeze, squish and pound.”
Elliot also enjoys working with the students who return to the studio for more experience.
“The students who come in are like my family, and I see them years later when they have grown up and they stop to say hello,” Elliot said.
Though funding for the studio primarily comes through course fees, the town has been supportive, Elliot said.
“People in Chapel hill are very open to the arts and are very aware of the playfulness of the arts,” she said.
And the studio is unique in the area for its intimate and friendly atmosphere, members said.
“It’s one of the few clay studios in the community,” said Steve Wright, public art coordinator with Parks and Recreation.
The new quarter for classes begins the first week of April and classes are from Tuesday to Saturday.
The classes range from beginning wheel classes to a teen holy smoke primitive firing and hand building class, among others.
“The University has an art department, but they do not offer clay classes to non-art majors,” Wright said. “The clay studio is a great opportunity for UNC students and faculty … and it’s just down the hill.”
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