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Grand Forks' Muddy Waters Clay Center gives area 'mudders' a place to create
[February 22, 2013]

Grand Forks' Muddy Waters Clay Center gives area 'mudders' a place to create

Feb 22, 2013 (Grand Forks Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- They say it takes a village to raise a child. According to Al Boucher, it took a similar approach to create a clay studio in Grand Forks.

"Potters don't like to work alone," said Boucher, as he cut a slab of clay for his Tuesday night class at Muddy Waters Clay Center. Near his table, Karla Nelson worked a lump of clay to her liking by throwing it repeatedly on a counter.

"We're influenced by each other," she said. "It's so much more fun than doing it on your own." It was this community of mudders -- people who work with clay -- that made establishing a nonprofit clay center possible, according to Boucher. Now, Muddy Waters hosts two or three classes at a time, has semi-private space for multiple artists to work and contains a 300-plus piece gallery.

"If we hadn't done this together, we never would have made this studio," Boucher said.

Hands on Boucher, a lawyer and former ceramics instructor at UND, and Nelson, an elementary art teacher, have been instructors at the center since it opened in 2008.

They and about eight others teach two to three classes lasting anywhere from five to nine weeks each season.

The Tuesday class, taught by Boucher and Nelson, focused on hand building and required students to create pots without the use of a pottery wheel.

Muddy Waters' classes are usually taught with two or more instructors, which allows students to get one-on-one attention, Boucher said.

During their first class, students used the pinching method to make pots. This time, they were introduced to coil and slab pots. As Boucher constructed his own pot from stacking coils of clay, he warned students to avoid trapping air in the material.

"It could explode when you fire it," he said. Besides destroying the artist's work, an exploding pot could destroy other's pieces as well.

'Sexy' part of ceramics Across the way in the center's second workspace was a throwing class. Students in the class learn how to form pots and vases from a lump of clay spinning on a pottery wheel.

When the center goes out into the community, members usually demonstrate throwing because it's the "sexy" part of ceramics, according to Boucher.

The tactic seems to be working as the courses offered at Muddy Rivers always have a waiting list.

"It's fun to get people hooked on clay," Boucher said.

Two students in his class say Boucher did just that.

Brenda Cole of Grand Forks took classes from him seven years and decided to get back into pottery this year.

"I've never made this kind before," she said as she rolled out coils for her pot.

On another worktable, Naomi Danielson, Grand Forks, was busy creating a two-dimensional sculpture resembling a tree. It was her second time taking a hand building class from the center. She'd taken an adult education ceramics class from Boucher several years ago.

"I've been thinking about it for a couple of months," she said of her work. "It's a lot smaller than I intended on making it." Eventually, Danielson says the sculpture will probably hang on her wall.

"I had bigger dreams for it, but if I can get this done then that's great," she said with a laugh.

Gallery After taking a few classes, some students opt to become members of Muddy Waters. Becoming a studio member gives artists an opportunity to display their work in the center's gallery.

"It doesn't matter how good or bad it may be," Boucher said. "We don't judge." The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. About 350 pieces in all shapes and sizes line the space's wooden shelves.

Each piece seems to be a testament to the community effort it takes to keep the center running.

"You need a community," Boucher said. "You can't run a studio on your own." Editor's note: Karla Nelson is the wife of Sports Editor Wayne Nelson.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to

___ (c)2013 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.) Visit the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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