by Len Lear
For Jane Alpern, home certainly is where the art is. For the past eight years, she has been offering a wide range of art classes in her Dresher home. At the Alpern Art Studio students can be found drawing, painting, working with clay, pastels and printmaking. They explore different media and learn new techniques in this small environment where no experience is necessary.
Alpern, 58, grew up in Long Branch, NJ. Her father owned a delicatessen, and her mother was the librarian at the West Long Branch Public Library. Jane went to Long Branch High School, Monmouth College and Beaver College (now Arcadia) in Glenside. She was an English major in college until her friend Louise persuaded her to take a pottery class. “I fell in love with clay and switched my major to art,” explained Jane, who went on to earn a BFA in Fine Arts and a M.Ed. in Art Education.
Alpern has lived in Dresher for 26 years, and she has two adult children, Sarah Kramer, 30, and David Kramer, 26. Ten years ago, after her children were self-sufficient, Alpern began teaching art in several different venues, including a studio in her own home.
“By holding classes in my home,” she explained, “I hope to create a comfortable, safe and nurturing environment. I really get to know my students. Many students who return year after year live right in her neighborhood and are able to walk to class. Others come from nearby areas.”
According to Mt. Airy resident Ava Sonnenthal, the mother of one student, Lily Schwartz, 7, “I found Jane’s studio on Phillyfunguide.com while searching for summer camps for my daughter. I was so impressed with the friendly yet professional atmosphere that Jane creates for her students. As a Waldorf teacher myself, I’m grateful my child has this opportunity to invent and experience beauty.”
In addition to classes in her own home studio, Jane teaches an after-school art class at the Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School in Glenside (formerly Queen of Peace) and a Judaic Arts class for a Jewish Teen Collaborative involving two local synagogues. In recent years she has not been producing enough clay work to participate in shows, but she was in the Strictly Functional Pottery National in 1993 and in shows at the Whitemarsh Arts Center and the Watertower in Chestnut Hill. She has also created such items as a dinnerware set and handmade books based on Hindu prayers for private commissions.
The books are sacred texts containing wise sayings in Sanskrit. They were gifts for three young men for a religious ceremony. Jane printed the cover, making a plate with a tree branch on styrofoam. The inside has a metal relief design on the left. On the right is a center print and border print she made by drawing into styrofoam and using ink and brayer, and she bound it using a Japanese stab binding.
For younger students in her studio, Jane’s projects are age-appropriate, and students explore a wide variety of techniques and are exposed to the work of famous artists. They learn the art elements of shape, line, color, and texture, thus developing an art vocabulary as well as skills. “Creating art is also great for stress reduction,” Jane said.
Jane is also now offering mom-and-tot and adults-only classes through Upper Dublin Parks and Recreation. In addition to drawing, painting and printing, adult offerings include book arts and visual journals. Pottery for adults is being offered through Upper Dublin Adult Evening School.
For pots, Alpern used to work in high-fire stoneware, reduction and salt firing, but she recently purchased an electric kiln and is experimenting with low-fire oxidation firing. “It’s been a great way for my adult students to relax,” said Jane, “to escape from their day-to-day routines and enjoy the company of other adults.”