Spreading the love of mud

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

Many Washington residents, young and old alike, are gravitating to the art of pottery making. So says Heather Summers, founder of the Mud in Motion Pottery Learning Center, who simply “loves her mud.” “There are many wonderful potters in the area,” said Summers. “Carolyn Sleeper, Maureen Davis, Penny Paul, and William Aley, just to name a few. And as the enthusiasm grows so does the number of potters we have here in Washington.”

Summers said many people get into making pottery because they simply find it very relaxing. However, she added, those who really immerse themselves find that it is not so much relaxing, but a different kind of challenge. ”It works a different part of your brain that you might not use on a regular basis,” said Summers. When you stay centered on the wheel and begin pulling things up to make them taller, it forces your brain to slow down and focus on exactly what is in front of you. The thing that matters most at that given moment is the mud and nothing else around you.”

Summers said making pottery is different from traditional art in that you are creating something that is functional and three-dimensional at the same time, which is why so many are becoming attracted to this art form. “There are so many other elements in pottery than other forms of art,” said Summers. “It can be beautiful in weight, texture, and function, as much as in its looks. When you walk into a traditional art gallery you can look but not touch. With pottery you can enjoy it even more because you can literally feel it in your hands while making it and then touch the final product.”

Summers added that some people are getting into pottery just for the fun of it. But for others it is the opportunity and satisfaction of being able to create something. “I have students coming in all of the time saying they saw a piece done by so-and-so and they would love to learn how to do something like that,” said Summers. “Others love to create practical things such as dishware for themselves or simply give away as gifts.”

Summers first discovered her love of pottery while taking art classes in high school. That obsession would continue on through college when she majored in art and art education at East Carolina University, with a concentration in ceramics. “As soon as I stuck my hands back into the clay, I knew I was married to the mud,” said Summers. “What can I say, I love it!”

In 2022, after teaching art for five years at Chocowinity Middle School and serving as the coordinator of art and outreach at Arts of the Pamlico, Summers opened the Mud in Motion Pottery Center. “We teach adult pottery classes that are part of the continuing education program through Beaufort County Community College,” said Summers. “And private classes as well. I also hold STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) camps for the kids, primarily focusing on science and technology within the arts.”

Summers said she loves teaching and introducing young and old alike to the world of pottery making. “With the kids, there is always that aha moment when you see the light bulb go off when they finally get something, which is so fulfilling to me,” said Summers. “Those moments don’t happen too often with adults. But there are those times when someone has grasped the understanding of how to make something beautiful and their faces light up, just like the kids. It is so great to see them so joyful about their work.”

Summers also points out to her students to not let the frustrating moments deter them. She said there will be those times when the clay becomes too wet on the throwing wheel and it simply collapses and goes from tall to fat. Or, when a person sneezes, their hands jiggle and everything goes awry. And then there are times when a piece actually breaks in the kiln or simply comes out the wrong color. “During those moments I always tell my students if it wasn’t a successful project, at least it was a learning experience, and to just keep trying, because if the piece is not there yet, it will be.”

Summers said she hopes the Mud in Motion Learning Center will inspire others to try their hand in pottery. “I just want to keep spreading the love of mud to the world,” said Summers.

On November 18, the Mud in Motion Learning Center will host “Pottery Fest 2023” from 10am-1pm at the Marketplace at Olive’s at 6118 US-264 E. There will be art for sale by adult students, games for the kids, including face painting, wheel throwing demonstrations, and other hands-on opportunities.