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Working with clay inspires artistic talent

By Staff | Mar 24, 2015

PHOTO PROVIDED Clay Chicks from Muncy are (left to right): Nancy Falls, Victoria Thompson Hess, instructor and Chelle Tanley. Nancy made matching table tops. Chelle's creation is a wall-hanging.

MUNCY – Taking up new hobbies and do it yourself classes are becoming quite the norm these days. It is no different in Muncy where Victoria Thompson Hess has converted her ceramics studio into a clay art fun project activity night.

It’s not the first time she has done this. She used to rent space on South Main Street in the “Eagle Shop” upstairs where she conducted painting classes then got into clay, she said. Her training is in art and she studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She took ceramic classes from Vance McCoy when he was at Muncy High School teachig adult evening classes. “I took classes in mosaic making in the early 80s,” she said. Her first one is mounted on her garden fence outside her studio home. “This was the first of many mosaics since then,” she added and guessed to have made over 4,000 so far in her career.

Thompson-Hess’s studio is ideally situated behind her Muncy home on New Street that was expanded from the garage 18 years ago. Three kilns have been added and the smaller kilns allow her to have smaller size classes. She said she buys one half ton of clay (red, white and gray) at a time and from that she teaches a wide variety of techniques. Students learn design, slab construction, glazing and firing. “The glazes can be tricky and change their properties when they’re fired.” She instructs how to apply the different glazes using combinations of glazes and underglazes to get the desired effects. “You need to experiment with ceramic pieces.” She referred to her signature piece, the sunflower redware pattern. “It is a special combination of colors.”

“I like 3-D medium and designs,” said Victoria. Her mural still stands in the children’s room at the James V. Brown Library in downtown Williamsport. She recently completed a large commissioned piece for a customer titled “The Tree of Life.”

Clay Chicks Classes began Wednesday evening March 18 and will run each consecutive Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and it runs for 6 weeks. Anyone is welcome to join in anytime.

“if you’d like to join the Chicks, we have so much fun. You are only obligated for six weeks at a time. Class hardly ever goes 7 weeks.” Thompson-Hess is also teaching in Kathy Gorg’s studio, Centered Earth, Monday nights in Montoursville. She has also served as artist in residence at Myers Elementary School and Bostley’s Pre-School. “Kids love clay and I love working with children.”

Classes are offered spring, summer and fall at all age levels. Projects can include bowls, mugs, platters, pitchers, any functional piece or hanging tiles of art. Esther Hinkel said she enjoyed making ceramic house numbers for the outside of her home. “I made some trivet tiles for gifts and a decorative vase I want to give away.”

Michelle Tanley has been coming also to the classes and said she likes to make clay jewelry. “I like coming to this class because I can do different things,” she said.

Thompson-Hess advises beginners to kekep designs simple and small and build self-confidence to go onto bigger projects. “This is not a place to be if you don’t like to get dirty,” she said.

The first week the clay project is a blob but then by the second week it starts to take shape. Color is added the third week and by the fourth week the first firing is ready. Lee Ann Stump from Muncy said she didn’t know how it was going to look at first, but then when the glazes were added, she was pleased with her project. “It takes several weeks to dry properly,” she added.

So come and have fun, learn to experience clay. Workshops and classes are available from September to May. Call 570-546-8659 for more information. Children’s classes are also available.