Women from across the community gathered at the Dirt Bean Gallery Monday night to take part in one of the gallery’s first studio classes.
Led by Cynthia Gurreri, of Marlinton, the women spent the evening crafting their own vide poche bowl. French for “empty pocket,” a vide poche is a small bowl used for housing pocket contents – such as keys, loose change and wallets – as a way to minimize household clutter and reduce the morning scramble.
Each participant received a slab of clay to work with, and under Gurreri’s instruction, set to work crafting their personalized bowl. The first step was to even out the clay’s thickness. Using a rolling pin and two small strips of wood, the women rolled the clay out until they achieved an even thickness all around.
“The most important thing is compression,” Gurreri explained. “Because of the way clay is, we always want to compress. Clay is like long platelets, so the more you compress it, the stronger it’s going to be.”
The next step was to smooth out any imperfection – such a small holes, bubbles or bumps – from the clay’s surface, and then a slump mold, or bowl, was selected to shape their bowl.
Utilizing a variety of fabric doilies, pieces of jewelry and pottery tools, the women went to work personalizing their bowl. One participant, Katie Workman, used her excess clay to create raised coils and scrolls on the inside of her bowl, while Margaret Worth created tiny berries and leaves to adorn the bottom of her berry colander.
“I thought the class was really fun,” Workman said of her experience. “I got to learn some different techniques about decorating pottery. I’ve taken a class with Cynthia before, and it’s nice to have options to do things like this. It was fun to get together with people and make some bowls.”
Following a seven year hiatus, Gurreri resumed her work with pottery in 1982 and worked with it off-and-on. However, it wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Marlinton in the 1990s that her work with pottery progressed to full-time.
“I wanted a place where the community could come and do pottery,” she explained, “and the [Pocahontas County] Art Council was excited about doing that, too. We got the little yellow house [in Dunmore] in 2009, and I inherited some kilns, which helped. That’s how we started to set up our pottery program.”
In addition to working with Dirt Bean Cafe and Gallery owner Kristy Lanier, Gurreri has worked with Pocahontas County High School and Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation to provide classes throughout the community.
“It’s still better for me to go into the community or up to the schools to do a lot of the pottery classes,” she explained. “Because of the way this county is situated, Dunmore is not convenient for everybody. Kristy opening this [the gallery] up is going to give us an opportunity to bring that programming down here, which is what we want to do. This [Marlinton] is more central, and there are people who live here [in Marlinton] where it’s not a treacherous distance to travel in the wintertime to take a class. So, we think it will go better here in the long run.
“We really want to get more into offering programs where we can teach the process of each of these things. Tonight was a project instead of a process, and we want to get to a place where we can teach the whole process and will know how to use the materials to express their own creativity. We can give them the basics by a series of classes. Any of these processes are going to help people understand what we’re doing and why, when they come to the gallery and see a painting worth $165, it is priced as such.”
“As we get more people involved, we’re hoping to offer more,” added Lanier. “Cynthia goes everywhere all over the county trying to do stuff, and I’d like to get a few more people pulled in to teach so that we can have more.”
Beginning Wednesday, October 21, the gallery will offer a four-week Beginner’s Drawing series, followed by a tarot and candy event for Halloween. The gallery will host another beginner’s oil painting class in early November, followed by jewelry and porcelain star classes closer to Thanksgiving.