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Hurray for clay! A new structured clay class at 3 Girls & A Kiln

By Lynn Markoff

9 April 2021

Most cheeseboards in my home are made from wood, but I now have one made from clay after attending a class on 20 March at 3 Girls & A Kiln.

I arrived to find a table set up with six cloth placemats and various implements, including a needlepoint tool, utility knives, bowls of water and blocks of clay stacked up, waiting for the class participants to make them into something useful. Black aprons were draped over each chair.

“This is our first structured clay class," said Deborah "Debs" Kern, one of the owners and instructors. "We have been wanting to do one for some time, but weren’t sure if we could make it work, as it takes two sessions in the shop."

Once the rest of the class arrived and settled in, Claire Rohleder, another one of the shop's owners, joined Debs to explain how we would make our cheeseboards and then we began. They had already created a basic shape using a stencil, but we were encouraged to make our own designs if we wanted.

We first had to roll out the clay, either by hand or using the recently obtained mechanical slab roller. I used the slab roller with a little help from Claire, and found it oddly satisfying to "smush" the clay, rolling it back and forth. Once my piece was flat enough, I applied the stencil to carefully cut out the shape of the board.

Others in the class were more creative with their designs. A variety of shapes started to emerge: one participant cut hers into a large triangle, like a huge slice of cheese; her partner cut out a neat square with a handle; others created rectangular and curvy shapes.

class participants at a clay class
Attendees of the class at 3 Girls & A Kiln at which participants fashioned cheeseboards from clay. Photo: Lynn Markoff

We then had to smooth out the edges with water to ensure the surface was smooth.

It was then time to add patterns to our platters using stamps or whatever we wished. I decided to go with a little shell stamp that offered both an indented pattern and a raised one. I carefully placed these at the widest part of the platter, creating a pleasing pattern.

The next step in the process will be to return to 3 Girls & A Kiln after a week's time to glaze our boards.

I very much enjoyed the class, which was kept light and friendly with the witty banter of Claire and Debs. Some in the class brought wine to drink while they worked, adding to the fun of the evening.

While this was the first clay class of its kind, it will not be the last.

“We plan to offer more classes to make functional pieces,” Debs said.

I am already looking forward to them because, as Claire said during the class, “Working with clay is addictive."

This piece first appeared in the April 2021 print issue of Camana Bay Times with the headline "Hurray for clay!"