Why We Had to Say Goodbye to Classes in Clay

Classes in clay are ending at Dirty South. Why? Well, there are actually many, many layers to that answer. 

We purchased our building on North Main Street back in the summer of 2014. When we first became owners our intentions were clear; we would live upstairs, have a production-style classroom area downstairs, and a small store upfront. We would teach 2-4 six week classes at any given time, with a once-a-month single class for those who were just looking to see what it was all about before committing to a longer course. This was going to bring hands-on opportunities in the arts to the folks in our community, and allow them to see what it takes to make art. 

Great in theory.

The reality hit us pretty hard after the first run of classes. We had 2 six week classes at the same time, two days a week each. Not only was that a lot of teaching, but because the students used the same wheels as us, all production stopped until the 2 hour classes were finished. On top of that, we didn’t have many students signed up for the next round of six week classes, which meant we may have to run the course 50% full, but requiring 100% of the effort. Halfway through the course, we were exhausted and trying to figure out a way to modify.

So we ditched the six week courses and focused on the one-night classes.

This worked spectacularly! We were booked up months in advance, had many private classes, and sold a lot of gift certificates for the classes. People were loving the experience of getting their hands dirty, and we really found our pace hosting these classes. In 2019, we added a guest instructor, Crimson, to help us run two classes a month. Even with the extra classes, we were still booked a few months in advance. 

The only problem that remained was that these classes were never really meant to exist. They were created, planned and priced as a way to get people interested in our six-week classes. We have long done away with those (and they will not be returning in the planned future), so these one-night classes have been our gifts to the community for the past 4 years now. But when we sat down to plan our 2020, it was just painfully obvious that the scales have tipped too heavily in favor of discontinuing them. 

A quick walk through of every action needed to make these classes happen:

Constantly updating the availability online (when someone books in-store), answering class inquiries, sending out personalized reminder emails before each class, mixing up reclaimed clay for class, cutting and wedging up 5 balls of clay per student, wedging up each ball of clay, sweeping/cleaning the studio area, setting out snacks and supplies, cleaning 5 sets of tools from the last class, two of our three production potters give up their wheels for class and they must be moved into place as well as cleaned (about 40 minutes plus lost production time the remainder of the day), water/stools/towels must be gathered and placed, then the class can start, two hours of teaching, a half an hour of post class cleanup (usually ending our day around 8pm). Then for the pieces that have been kept by students we compress and label the bottoms the next day, clean up the bottoms to minimize sharp edges, fire them in the kiln, glaze them, fire them again, call the students to let them know the work is ready, then hold the items for pickup. We honestly have a small shelf that is full of student work that has been paid for and never picked up, which is eating up usable space. 

But we have been willing to do all that for years. The major changeup is simple; we are making a huge push to get our studio into a more ergonomically friendly setup, and that means we must rearrange everything. Our wheels will be going to standing position, as will our tables. We will be adding in foam floors in our work spaces, and will need to have more room to allow for stretching. Simply put, we cannot do this and still have space for our classes. 

This building is only 19ft wide, and there is nothing we can do to expand it. We must use the space to the best of our ability, and for our growing company that now means putting our own health and production first. 

We honestly do feel the loss of this offering to our community, and we only cut the classes as a last resort. But we feel strongly that this is the best direction for us, and we are excited about the positive changes our studio will be undergoing in the next few months. 

To those of you who have taken our classes, THANK YOU! There have been over 250 students (!!) take this class in the past 4 years, and we truly hope that they have made lasting memories in our studio and that you've enjoyed them as much as we have. We currently still have a few spots left in our remaining classes, but after they are filled that will be it! Other than that, we recommend reaching out to Kentucky Mudworks in Lexington for classes on the wheel, or Created By You down the street from us for a great paint-your-own pottery experience. 

We’ve enjoyed 4 years of making a mess and a memory with you – now onto the future of Dirty South!

Ashley Norman

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