Saturday, October 10, 2009

Credit Where Credit is Due

Lee with his teacher, Jennifer Weaver, at the Dunedin Fine Art Center's Student/Faculty/Members Show this past spring.

For a time, I had a Saturday morning appointment with a virtual friend.

I'd get up early, go for coffee, read the newspaper, and be home before 9. Then I'd settle into my spot on the couch, click the remote, and find our local PBS station. And there she'd be -- still is, for that matter.

Donna Dewberry, creator of One-Stroke Painting. I watched, mesmerized by the ease with which flowers and critters flowed from her brush. During one PBS share-a-thon, we sent enough of a donation to get her video set. I bought brushes and paints and played with mixing colors and practiced pushing and lifting to create leaves and petals.

Before long, I was watching Terry Madden, a watercolor artist whose show aired right after Donna's.

Finally, my wife gave me a gift certificate to the Dunedin Fine Art Center. Took me a while before I got around to using it. Tried a sumi-e class first (not through the center) and then a blacksmithing class at Pinellas County's Heritage Village.

Shortly after completing the blacksmithing class -- and setting up my own anvil and forge at home -- we did a lunch-and-library date where I checked out a few books on blacksmithing. Then we stopped by the Dunedin Fine Art Center where I planned to finally use my gift certificate and sign up for a watercolor or drawing class. The main exhibit hall, however, held a ceramics exhibit full of funky clay sculptures. Not exactly my style, but it looked interesting.

And the clay class was a better fit for my schedule.

Why not.

I filled out the papers, gave them my gift certificate, and we went home. I opened up one of the library books I had checked out . . . and read that serious metal workers should learn to work in clay first.

And then I went to my first clay class and touched the clay. And knew. I spent most of that first two-hour period just squeezing it and feeling how it responded.

Thankfully, my instructor, Jennifer S. Weaver, understands that each person in her class needs to find his or her own way into clay. Jennifer demonstrates pinch pots, coil work, slab work, throwing pots on the wheel, and different glaze applications.

Some students try a little bit of everything. Others try variations of just one technique.

Either way is OK with Jennifer. She'll offer just as much instruction and advice as a person can absorb at one time, and then she'll step back and let us try it for ourselves.

That's just the kind of teacher I needed. That one class I signed up for became two classes the next session, and for every session since then. And I've learned something new each time.

Want to come play with clay and learn from Jennifer Weaver? She teaches Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

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