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The Best Ceramic Classes in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Getty

For Handbuilding

Choplet, 238 Grand St., Williamsburg;

“Everyone goes to this class,” says illustrator Clemens den Exter of Choplet’s Beginner & Intermediate Wheel & Handbuilding ($480). At one of the 34 wheels, spread across the studio and backyard, a student works “elbow to elbow with people of different ages and nationalities,” he says, “as well as professionals and people doing ceramics for the first time.” Den Exter first took the seven-week beginner class in March to shore up his handbuilding skills, which he’d picked up as a kid in the Netherlands but now uses to create colorful masks, bowls, and stackable, totemlike vases that are 3-D versions of his illustrations. Choplet’s instructors push students past old habits, according to den Exter, by coaching basic techniques (“In the first class, you make a pinch pot, and in the second class, you throw on the wheel,” he says) while encouraging experimentation (“They don’t make their students try to fit one single mold”). Den Exter adds that he recently learned how to manipulate glazes with masking tape; he’s currently trying out the technique with stickers.

For Picking Up the Basics

Clay Space, 275 Calyer St., Greenpoint;

“There are about a million different steps on the wheel, and if you mess up any of them, it destroys what you’re making,” says Sophie Tahran, a New Yorker content designer who has now taken Clay Space’s introductory wheel-throwing class twice. Tahran — who started going to Clay Space in 2021 at the recommendation of friend and ceramicist Selene De La Cruz — says the three-month course consisting of weekly three-hour classes ($750) starts with a comprehensive lesson on tools and sponges before jumping off with a challenge to make a cylinder on the wheel, because, she says, “it doesn’t matter if you’re making a cup, a bowl, or a plate: You always start with a cylinder.” The instructors — among whom are the artists Min Choi and ann/drew gayle — often use two-minute wheel-throwing exercises to assess new students’ skills; during her most recent Center & Throw series, while Tahran was making cups for guests at her wedding, gayle unlocked a simplifying technique: “I had been trying to smooth the rim of the cup with a basic sponge, and they suggested trying a slip of fabric that worked so much better.”

For Advanced Workshops

Gasworks NYC, 673 Fifth Ave., South Slope;

The Brooklyn studio hosts “some of the most well-curated workshops in the city,” says Marian Bull, a writer and ceramicist who’s been taking courses at Gasworks since 2019. Besides holding weekly wheel and handbuilding classes, the studio, which is lined with wooden shelves jam-packed with colorful examples of student work, offers hyperspecific, advanced lessons, such as Building Big ($725) and Crystalline Glazing ($325), all designed for those already in command of the basics. These allow students to pull off more ambitious projects, like a two-foot-tall ceramic table that, Bull says, she “never would have been able to make without Building Big. When you’re making something large, the biggest risk is that it will crack under its own weight if it’s not supported. We learned a lot of subtle details that you wouldn’t think about until it becomes a problem.” Dear You ceramicist Chala Toprak, in the ten-week Women + GNC in Clay course ($295), had worked on a delicate floral-appliqué porcelain project. “Making a thin piece is really tough,” she says, “but they teach you to work with super-moist porcelain and how to connect your coils.”

For Ceramics-Slash-Improv

Bklyn Clay, 535 Carlton Ave., Prospect Heights;

In Dustin Barzell’s class Clay Time With Dusty, held monthly in Bklyn Clay’s high-ceilinged, new-build studio, students skip over wheel throwing and instead practice thinking on their feet. “It’s like improv mixed with ceramics,” says artist and comedian Liz Olear, who attended after hearing about it at Brooklyn Comedy Collective. Each class ($100) includes an exercise in which Barzell plays 30 seconds of a 1980s song. Students sculpt whatever comes to mind until the music stops, then pass their piece to a neighbor to continue. After that, they mold a different piece based on a mood or a feeling. “It’s unlike any other class I’ve taken — less technical and more experiential,” says Russell Kummer, director of partnerships at a media company, who met Barzell at an improv class at the Annoyance and describes his own Clay Time creations as “mythical creature objects.” The results are meant to be strange and messy. “I loved that I could be a freak with it,” says Olear.

For M.F.A.-Level Instruction

Greenwich House Pottery, 16 Jones St.;

Greenwich House first began offering ceramics lessons in 1904. Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock took classes there in the 1930s, and in the ’60s, abstract expressionists like Peter Voulkos became alumni too. More recently, Greenwich House Pottery has taught artists Grace Fuller Marroquín, whose pineapple-inspired planters are sold at The Row, and Peter Lane, known for his ceramic wall installations. The studio operates like a mini-university for pottery. In the intermediate and advanced wheel classes ($800), Judy Weddle, a student since 2017, says that instructors might supplement projects with reading material: “They’ll say, ‘Okay, let’s break this down and see how it works,’ then run down to the library — they have over 700 books on pottery you can borrow — and say, ‘Read up on this and come back next class and try it again.’” Plus, Lane says, it has more custom glazes than even professional studios: “It’s kind of insane.”

For Japanese Techniques

Togei Kyoshitsu, 5 W. 30th St.;

Unlike most studios in New York, Togei Kyoshitsu teaches an Edo-period style of throwing in which potters use one big mound of clay to create multiple pieces in one sitting. (From $300.) The practice was perfected in Japan for faster production, but illustrator Gracey Zhang, who visits Togei three or four times a week, appreciates how it lets you “mess up and keep going. You realize you’re not going to throw a perfect piece every time.” Togei is run by Risa Nishimori, whose father opened it in 1994. The studio teaches Japanese throwing (the wheel spins clockwise, opposite to western ones) and kikuneri, a kneading technique to remove air from clay, and its tucked-away loft space is a respite from the city. “I work in an office where we have a lot of creativity going, but it’s more like the kitchen in the back of a busy restaurant,” says Alex Bolen, the CEO of Oscar de la Renta, who took a class after creative directors Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim recommended it. Togei, by contrast, “is tremendously quiet.”

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The Best Ceramic Classes in New York