by J.B. Hyppolite
Cornelia Kietzman and Shinobu Habauchi are two Mt. Airy women who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are the founders of Six Senses Clay Studio at 20 E. Mt. Airy Ave., a collaborative studio that welcomes all artists, students and admirers of the arts.
Inside the studio are a row of potter’s wheels, canvas-covered tables for handbuilding and an area for glazing. Many shelves are organized so that a student will find everything he/she will need for a day with clay. Tools and equipment are at the ready, and a teacher or guild member is there to help students find their way. The studio offers electric, raku and smoke firings.
“Six Senses Clay is actually a pretty active place for art classes,” said Cornelia, 52, who has taught as many as 11 art classes per week. “We didn’t know that it would be this popular.”
Six Senses Clay Studio offers classes for both adults and children. Adults learn pottery, sculpture and tile making. Children aged 4 to 14 learn sewing, woodworking, weaving and more. There is also an after-school program with even more options for anyone between the ages of 6 and 16 years of age, as well as a class where parents and children work in pairs. “The children really love working on the wheel,” said Cornelia, who has also made the pottery-wheel more accessible for smaller kids.
The studio also holds holiday-themed workshops. “For Valentines Day we had a couples night,” added Cornelia. “For a reduced rate a couple could come in and get to work on the (pottery) wheel together. It was pretty funny. Occasionally some sparks flew, but mostly people had a really fun time.”
Six Senses Clay Studio is involved with homeless organizations, day care centers, summer camps and schools for children with learning disabilities because of the therapeutic aspects of working with clay and with art in general. They have worked with Build A Bridge, Filly’s (a daycare center), The Northwest Interfaith Hospitality Network and are currently working with The Quaker School at Horsham. Sometimes people simply walk into the studio and ask how they can get involved. “We’ve had an acoustic rap artist, an oil pastel artist, a body wrap artist … we’ve had a real variety,” said Cornelia.
A full update of fall classes and workshops can be seen on the studio’s website. One of the upcoming visiting artists will be Sid Carpenter, a local potter who works at Swathmore College. “There’s something really essential and grounding about clay,” said Cornelia. “I love it. I’ve been sort of surprised to see how many other people really connect with clay. It’s something anyone can do. To be a skilled clay artist, you need to work at it for years, but to just make something that’s appealing or gratifying, that’s available to everybody.”
Cornelia and Shinobu have been friends for 12 years. Their connection started on a playground, moved to the studio and now spans across the city. They have worked with the Wissahickon Clay Guild to create their clay studio. Cornelia reacquainted with Shinobu after teaching at the Allens Lane Arts Center. “A group of us from the guild decided to look for space that we would share,” said Cornelia. “When I found a place, Shinobu stepped forward and wanted to be my partner.”
Six Senses Clay was started shortly afterwards. Cornelia teaches while Shinobu and other Wissahickon Clay Guild members offer open studio time; a time for intermediate ceramic artists to come and get technical advice and start their own projects. Shinobu, who is originally from Japan, has a background in flower arrangement. She handles parts of the studio’s public relations and coordinates workshops, among other responsibilities.
Cornelia attended Bryn Mawr College with the intent of focusing on sociology and education. She ended up taking a few art classes that eventually led to a ceramics course and a B.A. in Fine Arts. She continued to take art classes at Haverford, Swathmore, and UArts Colleges. “I just took all the classes I could and ended up in the pottery studio and really fell in love with it.” A Swarthmore native and long-time Mt. Airy resident, Cornelia and has three children: Mateo, 8, Lucas, 12, and Ari, 23.
More information on Six Senses Clay Studio can be found at 267-650-1757 or www.sixsensesclaystudio.com.
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