Melissa Gabrielsen of Plants and Clay recently started leading interactive pottery workshops. (Credit: Tara Smith)
If you’re looking for a way to fill the creative void, a local craftsman is here to help.
Melissa Gabrielsen, who runs Plants and Clay, recently started hosting workshops away from home to share one of the oldest art forms with others.
“I’ve always been an artist at heart,” said the 28-year-old Greenport resident. For several years, she expressed this creativity through hair. While she still styles hair for weddings, clay has become her medium of choice. “No matter what I do, I have to do something with my hands,” she said. “Being able to make something and then, a few weeks later, use it in your daily life is so rewarding.”
A few years ago, Gabrielsen started creating beautiful polymer clay earrings. The range of earrings includes moody neutral tones and bright, bold options you may have seen around Greenport at Times Vintage, Special Effects Salon and The Market or in Amagansett at Stick + Stone.
Then, on a pre-COVID-19 trip to Indonesia, Gabrielsen attended a pottery workshop in Ubud and was hooked.
When she returned home, she sought to continue creating pottery – but found there was a dearth of local options without having to travel very far west. She soon began exploring on her own, taking online workshops and even investing in her own kiln and lathe, later discovering that she preferred making pieces by hand rather than spinning them. “I prefer these more organic, crazier shapes,” Gabrielsen said.
Soon people were contacting her and asking her to lead a class.
The $80 workshop includes all of the tools, clay, glazing and firing of your piece as well as snacks to enjoy during class. Since their launch, she has hosted classes ranging from making mugs, flower pots, pipes and ashtrays, to flower pressing and free sessions.
Seating is limited to six participants and open to all skill levels. “My opinion of pottery is that it doesn’t have to be perfect,” Gabrielsen said. “If you’re a perfectionist then it can be, of course. But you can do something out of shape and that’s cool, it always works.
Throughout the workshop, which typically lasts 2.5 hours, Gabrielsen walks participants through the process of building their own handmade pottery (sorry, “Ghost” movie fans!) and provides step-by-step instructions. . When you’re done shaping and sculpting, you’ll leave your piece to Gabrielsen to fire and glaze, choosing between a clear white or glossy black glaze. Like an art lesson!
“I feel like everyone says at first, ‘I haven’t done this since kindergarten,'” Gabrielsen said. Her favorite part was seeing what people come up with. “You teach the same basic thing and everyone has such a different outlook and can take it to so many different places,” she said.
Gabrielsen is currently looking for potential studio space that will allow her to expand her workshops and has also partnered with local wineries like Corey Creek Tap Room.
New workshops and dates are announced regularly on her site and Instagram @plants.and.clay and if you’re not a handyman, you can also browse her selection of ceramics, earrings and other goodies there.