When I was a kid in elementary school, I remember my mom always getting a little catalog full of “summer enrichment courses” offered by the city of Moscow. The catalog contained info for both adult and child classes. Being an only child with two working parents, it afforded my family to find me something to do over the summer, something which I readily looked forward to and, because of this, always loved to look through it to find the most interesting summer distractions.
Once, when I was about 6, we found a two-week-long program (that, now that I think about it, ran during the school year and not the summer) that was basically a clay camp—it was for younger kids like myself and it entailed making things out of clay and, after they were fired, glazing them and taking them home.
This was perhaps the greatest activity ever for me.
I remember being totally enthralled by it. This wasn’t the rubbery, neon-colored, oven-bake Sculpey clay I was used to. This was actual moist clay that had to be fired in a kiln before you could do anything else with it. And the glazing? HOLY FREAKING CRAP. I loved how glazes that looked brown or black initially “magically” turned out red or green or baby blue after the clay pieces were fired a second time.
The instructor of this clay class was (and, for all I know, still is) Linda Canary. I really liked her and she really liked me and I really liked clay, so after I had taken clay class several times, she suggested to my mom that I should try out Art Camp, a summer camp she run in which kids not only got to play with clay but also got to use charcoal, oil pastels, acrylic paint, plaster, sculpt soapstone, make books, and (perhaps most importantly) play on Linda’s property, which included a huge field, access to Paradise Creek, like fifteen semi-domesticated cats, a huge dress-up bin, and two treehouses. Not only that, but this camp ran for FIVE HOURS every weekday for TWO WEEKS.
Needless to say, I was thrilled.
I went to this camp until I was older than the upper age limit Linda had written on the flyers. So did I stop going? NEVER! Linda and I had gotten to know each other very well, and she actually suggested once I reached the age of 13 that I should act as her apprentice. What that meant: I would be able to attend the camp without paying the fee, but my job would basically be to assist the younger kids, organize the supplies, set up stuff between activities, and clean brushes/pottery wheels/charcoal-covered tables/charcoal-covered kids. But I could also do as much art as I wanted.
I think I apprenticed until I was 16 or 17, before I had to go and get a “real” job. Would I go back and do it again if Linda were to ever ask me? Hell yes. Art Camp was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
I don’t know what made me think so much about Art Camp this afternoon, but when I got back from walking around London I screwed around on the internet to see if I could find the kiln brands that Linda used, ‘cause if I ever get rich I’m SO building myself a pottery studio. I came across Dogwood Ceramic Supply, which is where I think Linda got EVERYTHING, including glaze.
So hey, if this kind of stuff interests you at all, click on the link and browse around. If I make my own studio, I’m holding adult Art Camps. Because we all need some unabashed creativity in our lives.