Monday, April 25, 2011

Frederick's Little Pottery Shop

     Too often we draw a separation between what is practical and what is artistic or aesthetically pleasing when it comes to how we spend our money and furnish our homes, largely because we are afraid of damaging really nice things.  My mother would kill me if we ever used her fine Dresden Rose china outside of special occasions because it's so fragile that it can't be put in the dishwasher after use.  For about 363 days of the year, its sole job is to look expensive and pretty in the china closet.
     So when I stumbled into The Little Pottery Shop in downtown Frederick about two years ago, I was really excited to see many fantastic pieces of art, both fine and quirky, that can be used as much as they are admired. Although not true of every piece in the shop, very many of them, such as the stoneware collection, are extremely sturdy and glazed such that they can survive the dishwasher and microwave alike.  I actually bought one of their mugs when I first entered the shop and it’s sitting on my desk right now.  I love it because it has something of an unrefined, medieval or organic look about it that fits well with my aesthetic interest in by-gone literary eras.  But the cool thing about the shop is that it surely has something for you, no matter where your tastes lie. 
      "I think (pottery is) one of the more creative mediums where you can make a lot of different things.  Clay is a very versatile and really interesting material to work with," said Tameria Martinez, the shop's experienced owner.
     Just glancing around I could tell what she means.  I saw everything from pots and mugs with little faces carved into them, to plates and pitchers with South Western deserts glazed onto them.  I was drawn to a set of vases that Tammy said were made from a porous clay called raccoo, which are capable of capturing images of the flames from the kiln as they are fired.  You can actually see the shape of the flames and the different colors they left on the vase at different temperatures.

(Click to see a picture slide show of the shop)

     Tammy boasts that her shop not only has a strong collection from local potters, but from all over the United States, and one from Canada, totaling 120 artists in all.  She listed many of the different clay types, building and glazing decorating techniques that her shop carries, concluding with "just about everything in a pottery shop you can imagine.”
Recently the shop has expanded its studio space, allowing room for teaching pottery classes, and a new round of them are about to begin this May.  They offer both hand-building and wheel classes to children aged 9-13 and another set of classes from 14 to adult.

  (Click to hear Tammy explain the difference between hand-built and wheel-thrown pottery)

     Tammy says she hopes to teach people what really goes into making fine pottery. 
“I think a lot of people don’t realize what it’s like to throw pottery on the wheel.  And once they get into it, they understand what kind of techniques and what kind of skill it takes to actually throw pots on the potter’s wheel," she said.  "Also, I think a lot of people are not aware of the length of the process from the time that you begin a piece on the wheel until you actually finish it and get it out of the last firing." 
But at the same time, she wants people to know that it is a fun process and she provides a relaxing atmosphere for learning.
“We try to have a very relaxed atmosphere here.  We try to make (the classes) really fun and enjoyable, not a lot of pressure," she said.  "The pressure that happens is mostly students putting pressure on themselves, especially throwing, that’s a little bit of a challenging exercise for most people.  But we have some really great students, very fun, some great beginners who are quickly moving on to intermediate classes."

Pottery class studio
      I really like the idea of these classes because I think it would be neat to regularly use something made by my own hands.  As a writer, the products of my labor are intellectual, not tangible, and sometimes I wish I had more solid reminders of my mind’s output.  I once tried a pottery class at my college, but as I was working on my thesis I missed several of the classes and only ended up with a few glazed pinch pots.  Although they didn’t amount to much compared to the work on display in Tammy’s shop, I’ll always be proud of them because they came from my own efforts.
 The Little Pottery Shop
 Shab Row
 117 North East St.
 Frederick, MD 21701
 (301) 620-7501

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