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Staunton Clayground to offer memberships in Frederick Street Post Office sorting room

A student sculpts a bird at Staunton Clayground. Courtesy of Staunton Clayground.

Staunton Clayground began offering pottery classes in April and will soon be open for memberships.

During an open house on Saturday, June 22, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., staff will offer tours of the facility and answer questions about classes and memberships.

Cary Dahl, founder and owner, has been taking pottery classes in the area for over 15 years.

“I kept signing up for classes because that was the only way to have access to the tools and equipment required to complete a piece of pottery. All I really wanted was for someone to open a community studio in Staunton where I could simply create on my own schedule,” Dahl said.

Tired of waiting for that “someone else” to step up, Dahl decided to open a studio herself. Finding the perfect space was the first step. She wanted a downtown Staunton location to take advantage of the artsy character of Staunton, a character that provides a perfect synergy with pottery. She found a space in the old sorting room of the Frederick Street Post Office at 123 W. Frederick Street.

Landlord Will Wright turned the ground floor of the building into a set of office/studio suites called The Cellar, with an aim at attracting arts and crafts businesses that fit in with the new vibe of Lewis street, which houses a tattoo artist, Silver Line Theatre School, and craft food restaurants.

“It was my hope with The Cellar to develop a space where people could share ideas and create amazing things. The Clayground fits in perfectly,” Wright said.

Dahl knew that finding the right studio manager was the key to a successful venture, and finally found one with the help of connections through the pottery community and the Staunton Maker Space.

Jennifer Delare studied fine arts in Milan, Italy, and rediscovered pottery during the pandemic. She taught classes in Clifton Forge before joining the Staunton Clayground team.

“Being a part of this venture is a dream come true for me,” Delare said. “The only thing I love more than creating is having the chance to help others learn new skills to help them do the same.”

The first class, Introduction to Pottery, was co-taught by Dahl and Delare, and included four classes in hand building techniques (Dahl’s specialty) followed by four classes in wheel throwing (Delare’s specialty) and a glazing session.

“It was a learning experience for students and teachers alike, but more fun than I ever imagined,” Dahl said.

Student Julie Caran said participating in the first class was “such a joy.”

“Jennifer and Cary have created a pottery studio where there’s no shame in making a mistake and complete beginners and returning potters feel at home,” Caran said.

Since that first class, several beginning wheel classes have sold out and the studio keeps adding more. Hand building workshops have included Sculptural Slab Creations and Geometric Vases. Upcoming classes include weekday and weekend series of beginning wheel classes, a coil building class, and more slab-building workshops. A summer camp collaboration with the Art Hive will bring kids into the studio to make planters, which they will paint and later fill with growing things.

“We are looking forward to more collaborations with other businesses and more offerings for children in the future,” Delare said.

Class postings are available online. Classes are taught by a variety of local artists that bring a wide range of experience and knowledge to their classes.

Memberships will roll out slowly over the next several months starting in July 2024 to give staff time to assess membership capacity and add equipment and services as needed. Members will have dedicated Members-Only space and equipment, so that classes and members can peacefully coexist.

Parking for the studio and the open house event can be found behind the building or in the lot across Lewis Street, in spaces reserved for “The Cellar.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.