Workshop at Surry Community gets creative with clay

Staff Report

January 30, 2014

DOBSON — Admittedly clay, for many, is not the first thing which comes to mind as an artistic medium. An upcoming pottery workshop at Surry Community may open up new, expressive possibilities for some.

The Corporate and Continuing Education Division of Surry Community College is sponsoring a pottery workshop with Edge Barnes Saturday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in E162 Ceramics Lab on the SCC campus in Dobson.

Barnes’ clay experience began informally more than three decades ago with a pottery class at the Virginia Museum of Art. He indicated his training has continued to be informal and largely self-taught through reading, experimentation, interaction with other potters, workshops, and from teaching others in the way of clay. His work encompasses many extremes including those of surface texture, firing temperature, firing method and decorating technique.

“The reason I became interested in clay is a little vague today, after around 35 years of working with it,” said Barnes. “I believe I had seen a documentary film showing someone making pots on the wheel, and like most everyone who sees it, it was magical to watch. Of course, I wanted to try it.”

Barnes said when he moved to Richmond, Va., he didn’t know many people and heard about a clay class at the Virginia Art Museum.

“I thought I could find out if clay was my thing and meet some new people at the same time. I was able to enroll in the class and have been involved in making pots and things clay ever since,” Barnes said. “I am not sure why it is that clay snags people, but you can tell which students will stick with it from the ones who won’t, right at the beginning. There is a sense of happiness about them. I believe that for me it is being able to take something so basic and shapeless and manipulate and coax it into a form that brings a smile to other people’s faces.”

“Within reason, clay allows extremes, and its nature allows it to be manipulated, formed and surfaced in a multitude of ways. It often responds with surprising results to the variables and nuances of the fire and sends me in pursuit of new colors and effects,” Edge states on his Web site, “Every firing is an adventure leading to new designs and techniques. I appreciate that clay only hints at what may be, leaving it to me, the potter, to discover the keys that will unlock the secrets that it holds. It is this process of observation, experimentation and discovery that makes working in this medium so exciting.”

Barnes indicated he said he feels the process of observation, experimentation and discovery makes working in this medium exciting. He explained both horse hair and seaweed pieces (pots) are made with fine-grained white clay, specially formulated to withstand thermal shock during the firing process. Smooth stones are used to burnish them to produce highly polished spherical and ovoid vessels. The technique yields a surface with a quality likened to highly polished marble.

He will demonstrate his technique of combining throwing, burnishing and waxing, along with a hands-on foil saggar firing. Saggars are fireproof boxes. Barnes will lead the loading and firing of the kiln and demonstrate the application of horsehair for decorative purpose. The kiln will be loaded at the beginning of the workshop and followed by demonstrations, discussions and a slide show presentation by the featured artist. The firing process takes two hours.

Participants are asked to bring one or two small (under 5”) bisque pots to wrap and fire in the raku kiln. The workshop fee is $59 per person.

As a resident of Raleigh, Barnes has taught at the Sertoma Art Center, the Durham City Arts Program and the Crafts Center at N.C. State. His work his been displayed at The Nature Art Gallery in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Pre-registration is required for the workshop. To reserve a spot or for more information, contact Terri Cockerham at (336) 386-3244 or or Sonnie Hardy at (336) 386-3229 or