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Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Get your hands dirty in clay

Creating art can be inspiring. It can also be a tad frustrating.

But, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every artist was first an amateur.” 

The volunteers at the Hoffman Center for The Arts’ clay program will help you find your inner artist.

Established in 2006 by Kathleen Ryan, the clay program offers a wide variety of clay activities for anyone 18 years and older at its open studio.

And they want you to get your hands dirty.

Mary and Steven wheel
Working at the wheel at the Hoffman Center in Manzanita.

Originally the studio consisted of one kiln, one wheel and a handful of volunteers. Since then, it has steadily grown to include five wheels, two kilns, and over 13 volunteers. 

“We’re very proud of how far we’ve come,” said volunteer clay studio co-leader, Sharon Gibson. 

That growth has allowed the program to expand hours to three days a week and one evening at their open studio.

Everyone is welcome to drop by the studio, though it’s often better if participants have a little more to spare.

“We work with raw clay and you have a lot of steps to see a piece through to the end,” said co-leader Steven Gibson. “The entire process takes about two to three weeks.”

Clay Circle Orbs
Beginner and expert clay artists are welcome.

That’s not to say you can’t start simple: beginners can easily learn to make a simple pinch or slab pot.

If you want more one-on-one instruction, you can choose from private lessons as well as master classes featuring local and regional clay experts. 

Curious about the work being done in the studio? You can usually find ceramics from studio and guest artists on display in the adjoining Hoffman Gallery. There’s also a large ceramic sale across the street at Hoffman Gardens during the summer. Proceeds support the clay program. 

Kathie HIghtower Plaque Class
Take a private lesson or a group class: whatever your pace!

The studio relies on donations of supplies and time and charges a nominal fee for studio time and clay. 

“We really try to keep the fees down so it’s approachable for everybody,” said Sharon, noting that the studio is one of the largest not-for-profit studios on the coast. 

The studio has a large base of local users, though the Gibsons have noticed a slight rise in drop-ins by out-of-towners. 

“Often times those folks are interested in a new experience. They don’t necessarily want to take anything home with them,” said Sharon. 

“Whether it’s food or art, people are becoming more interested in learning how to make things,” Steven added.

clay studio door

Open Clay Studio information:

Hours are Tuesday & Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Thursday, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Adults age 18 or older, all experience levels

Studio fees are $2 an hour and clay fees are $1.50 per pound

No reservations needed.

A Picture of Dan Haag
Dan Haag
Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the north Oregon Coast in the early 90s. Finding that rain never needed to be shoveled, he married an Oregon girl and settled in Manzanita, where he works as director of the Manzanita Visitors Center. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of state and national publications. He spends his free time wandering the area’s many trails, supporting the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing coastal bookstores, and chasing his black Labrador, Lilo, along the beach.