Clay Culture: Clay and Recovery

1 Instructor Herb Massie and assistant Camilla Asher demonstrate creating a smooth and even foot and handle to Tuerk House participants.

Baltimore Clayworks and substance addiction recovery center in the Baltimore, Maryland area have teamed up to make working with clay a part of the process that helps people put their lives back together.

Baltimore Clayworks is a ceramic arts non-profit organization with a dedicated community arts program. This program partners with local arts centers and schools, and also includes classes developed for participants in local substance addiction recovery programs. As with any clay class, these students learn to work with clay and express themselves creatively. They also incorporate these new skills into projects that address their progress toward independence.

Ceramics Monthly: How long has Baltimore Clayworks worked with recovery programs?

Laura Cohen (director of community arts) and Sarah McCann (executive director): Baltimore Clayworks has partnered with the Tuerk House, a center for addiction recovery, since 2009. The clay program meets every week of the year on Wednesday evenings for three-hour sessions and works specifically with adult men in the 3.3 Men’s Recovery Program, a residential recovery option for non-violent, ex-offenders.

2 Students learned everything from making the cups and attaching handles to applying surface decoration and glaze.

Tuerk House recently became one of our Clay for All! Satellite Studios, which means we rely on the contributions of individuals, corporations, and foundations to run programming. Programming this year is funded by the Peter G. Dodge Foundation.

CM: You’ve taken the classes at Tuerk House one step further, offering participants a chance to create pieces for sale. How did the Clayworks staff and affiliated artists get involved in this project?

LC and SM: Ceramic artists involved with our pilot e-commerce initiative at Tuerk House worked with Laura Cohen, and our Director of Community Engagement, Herb Massie (who is also the lead instructor at Tuerk House), to develop and build curriculum and prototypes. Clayworks’ artists Matt Hyleck, Mary Cloonan, Jeremy Wallace, Deb Bedwell, and Warren Anderson developed lesson plans for the sessions that they each taught alongside Massie. Bedwell is currently compiling these into a cohesive curriculum that Clayworks can share with others.

This past fall and winter there was an emphasis on designing and making cups to launch our Cups for Recovery initiative this year. The initiative’s pilot program has recently ended and the cups went on sale in January through our online store (www.shop-baltimoreclayworks.org) and onsite Community Arts Gallery. Participants made over 100 cups, and the sale of the work will support future classes for those in recovery.

3 A finished mug bearing a maker’s self-portrait.

CM: Are other recovery programs partnering with Baltimore Clayworks?

LC and SM: Herb Massie is teaching at the Man Alive Lane Treatment Center’s Imagination Lab. We have had a partnership with them since September 2014 and provided programming there through a grant from PNC Bank. Over the course of the fall, 25 participants created ceramic clocks and narrative sculptures that were recently featured in their end-of-term “Imagination Demonstration” event.

CM: Have any former participants continued to work with clay?

LC and SM: There are many stories of joy, skill building, resilience, transformation, love, compassion, forgiveness, and success in our programming for those in recovery. Recently a man named Roco, who was in our class at Tuerk House, started attending a clay class with his daughter every Saturday at Jubilee Arts, which houses one of our other Clay for All! Satellite Studios. Jubilee is a westside community arts center where we offer senior, adult, teen, youth, and multi-generational clay classes out of a designated ceramics studio.

Another individual, named George, completed the recovery and clay program in December and is continuing his clay practice; taking classes at our main site to hone his skills and working with a mentor artist. One of his goals is to eventually become a ceramics instructor.

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