I began taking workshops as a means to supplement my pottery instruction.  After I exhausted the local resources, my options were limited because I knew I didn’t want to take classes at the university.  So I did two things.  First, I started throwing with other potters who were as passionate about clay as I was.  This is how Julie and I started working together.  Second, I started looking for workshops that addressed skills that I wanted to develop.

Albemarle Sound - Cabin Fever Reliever

Because I am preparing to attend a workshop this week, a lot of people have asked what pottery workshops are like.  For the most part, they are like adult arts and craft camp.  It is really exciting to find a community of people who share a common passion.  For the first few workshops, I was nervous about my skill level and I was very intimidated by the other potters.  But, I quickly found that my skill level didn’t matter.   All the advanced potters had been where I was and understood the challenges.  I found that to be reaffirming. It was exciting to hear about their clay journey and recognize some of the same challenges and victories.  I was intimated by the accomplishments of the instructors but I have found them to be very accessible and generous.

There are two basic types of workshops – demo and interactive.  Demo workshops tend to be shorter.  You watch a potter work and have the opportunity to ask questions and meet other potters.  These workshops can host a larger number of attendees and have lower tuition.  Interactive workshops can be offered over a weekend or longer time period.  The instructor demos projects that you work on and receive help with during the workshop.  There are fewer attendees; and, in addition to tuition, there are also lab fees.

Converted Classroom at Cabin Fever Reliever

If you can take a interactive workshop, it is worth pursing.  And if you can take a weeklong workshop, there are a lot of good ones to choose from. The success of a workshop is based on the mindset of the attendee, appropriateness of the topic, the quality of the instruction, and venue.  Because the first three criteria are variable, I will share my perspective of several venues that I have had the opportunity to attend in the next series of posts.

Cabin Fever Reliever, Columbia NC  – The Cabin Fever Reliever is multiple workshops in various media that is hosted by the Pocosin Arts Council.  It is held in February in Columbia, NC on the Albemarle Sound – a beautiful and inspirational venue.   I have had the opportunity to attend the past two years.  The workshops run from Thursday to Sunday.  The instructors have been exceptional and it was well worth the time and expense.  The studio is a large multi-purpose room dedicated to the potters for the weekend and is available for working at all hours.  Workshop attendees come from all over – some traveling quite a distance depending on the instructor’s notoriety.  The accommodations are basic – 4-H camp bunks.  Meals are provided – which is helpful since there isn’t much convenient to the camp but it is basic camp food.  In the evenings, the instructors give presentations, which I really enjoyed because I got to hear about other media.  One other benefit is the sales gallery.  Attendees are encouraged to bring wares for sale.  This gives everyone a chance to purchase some fabulous art and also to sell work.

  • Accommodations – Adequate
  • Meals – Basic
  • Studio Space – Large and light
  • Value – Very Good
  • Likelihood of returning – Very Good

    Sales Gallery at Cabin Fever Reliever

Lee Arts, Arlington VA  – Lee Arts is a community studio that hosts potters and printers and occasionally hosts workshops.  I attended one workshop at Lee High Arts – the potter was amazing and I gained a lot from her generous spirit.  The studio is home to serious potters and printers who rent space to pursue their passion.  Therefore it is well equipped with hot and cold boxes, several kilns, several wheels, and lots of table space.  It also had a small sales gallery where several artists’ works were on display.  Most of the workshop attendees were local potters who belonged to a local guild. The studio closed at 5 each day so it was unavailable for working.  Food and lodging were the responsibilities of the individual attendees.  I stayed in a near-by hotel but found it difficult to get lunch in a timely manner.  

  • Accommodations – Not provided
  • Meals – Not provided / not easily accessible
  • Studio Space – Well Equipped
  • Value – Very Good
  • Likelihood of returning – Low

The decision to take a workshop was a huge commitment to myself as a potter because workshops are a lot of money and time.  But they have been worth the cost; and I found I really enjoy workshops – I come home inspired and challenged.   I will review more venues in the upcoming posts.