Hands On The Wheel

November 06th, 2019
Hands On The Wheel
When Mount Barker TAFE closed its visual arts department in 2014, aspiring potters from the Adelaide Hills were left with nowhere nearby to learn the craft.

That’s about to change, however, with the recently established Adelaide Hills Ceramics Association organising a wheel throwing class for newbie potters.

Current association president Emma Dedman was one of the TAFE students doing visual arts at Mount Barker and she said the closure came as quite a shock.

“Everyone was devastated when it came apart, but a group of former students formed a group that eventually became what the association is today,” Emma said.

“The former head of visual arts Merrylyn Stock and the local council were also instrumental in obtaining the pottery equipment from the TAFE campus for us to use.”

Since its official establishment in May of this year, the association has hosted an advanced drawing class and intermediate pottery class, with the beginners wheel throwing class the latest addition.

The class is headed by prolific pottery artist and new association member Vitas Jurevicius, former Mount Barker High art teacher, exhibiting artist and member of the flourishing pottery scene of the 70s and 80s. He has taught pottery at various levels, including internationally.

Vitas said pottery is a craft that brings out a lot of passion from people while they are working the clay.

“It’s one of those classic crafts that I just love to master – it’s very satisfying to see the clay morphing into wonderful forms,” Vitas said.

“These days hand building is quite popular, but a lot of potters dream to create something at a wheel, and that’s what this class is about.”

The art of wheel throwing is a traditional pottery skill that involves ‘throwing’ a lump of clay onto a pottery wheel and immediately using your hands to form the sides of the pot.

Vitas said the beginners class will take place over six weeks for six initial students, who had their first class in the last weekend of October.

“We have seven pottery wheels inherited from the former TAFE course that function reasonably well – over these six weeks, I will be teaching them some skills I think they’ll be very happy with,” he said.

“I believe in very hands-on teaching, where I will supervise and monitor them every step of the way, but also give them the freedom to explore it themselves.

“When you’re manipulating clay, I think it’s very important that you are allowed to self-express.”

One of Vitas’ new students in the beginner wheel throwing class is also the incoming vice-president for the Adelaide Hills Ceramics Association Gillian Roberts.

A member of the association since June, shortly after it became an official organisation, Gillian said she expects to get a lot out of the class.

“I have a little bit of knowledge about clay and sculpturing, but I wanted to to sign up for Vitas’ class to improve my skills – we’re all very excited to learn from him,” Gillian said.

“I find playing with clay to be very therapeutic and relaxing – it’s really beneficial for your mental and physical health.”

Vitas also believes working with pottery has health benefits, having established a Parkinson’s Art Group in Mount Barker and observing them first hand.

Originally inspired to create the group due to his wife’s affliction with the neurological disorder, he said working with pottery can have an impact on its symptoms.

“Pottery is very good for activating and strengthening various parts of the brain – what I’ve noticed is that the shakes actually diminish while they’re working,” he said.

While the beginners will finish their classes at the end of November, Vitas has expressed interest in teaching more advanced exotic skills in a future class.

Emma has put the call out for new members to join the association, regardless of their skill level.

“We have really huge facilities, so it would be brilliant to have more courses – we are hoping for more locals to join, as well as some generous benefactors to help us keep growing,” she said.

“I think people get a bit freaked out by the word ‘ceramic’ but it’s really not as tough as it sounds, so I say just give it a go.”

The Adelaide Hills Ceramics Association is based at Crystal Lake Park in Macclesfield and is open to everyone on Thursdays and Saturdays from 10am-2pm, with classes operating on different days. Prices for classes vary, but casual visits are $10.

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