Inaugural Clay Fest to take place later this month in Kettering

Piece by Niehaus Lentum; photo: courtesy of Rosewood Arts Centre

By Timothy Walker

When you mention the art and craft of pottery to the average person, a variety of images may spring to mind: spinning wheels, muddy hands focused on molding decorative pots, which will eventually be baked, perhaps painted. Clay, glaze, kilns, smocks, works of fine art or casually thrown terra cotta vessels containing the odd houseplant – an art form nearly as old as the human race, pottery means many things to many different people. In reality however, pottery is about much more than just the works of earthenware that are its most visible end result.

“I’ve been working with clay for over a decade now,” says Sara Torgison, the Ceramic Studio Coordinator at the Rosewood Art Centre in Kettering. “I started working in the ceramics lab at my university and have stayed active in the clay community here and in my home state of California ever since. I feel so fortunate to have a career working with clay and advancing the ceramic arts. The ability to sculpt my ideas and experience in a way that connects me to my community is a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Clay Fest

On Saturday, Sept 30, Sara and a group of like-minded local artists and lovers of the arts will be presenting the area’s inaugural Clay Fest, which will be held at the Rosewood Arts Center in Kettering. A festival honoring the art of pottery and the love of ceramics, Clay Fest promises to be a unique and fun-filled event that is sure to capture the imagination of everyone in attendance. The Arts Center, which has already spent the better part of this year celebrating pottery with its unique calendar of events called “A Celebration of Clay”, is located at 2655 Olson Drive in Kettering, and the hours for the one-day-only Clay Fest will be from 10 am to 2 pm. Admission is free and open to all ages. 

“At Clay Fest, we’ll be hosting demonstrations from several of our instructors, including new instructors who’ll be joining us for the exciting fall season,” says Claire Dorothy Hinde, Facility Coordinator for the City of Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts. “These instructors will be helping us to both expand our ceramics program, and bring exciting new classes to the table. The highlight of the day should be the pottery games. Artists will compete in wheel-throwing games on stage in various categories – largest form in ten minutes, most forms in ten minutes, etc. We’ll also have sales going on from our studio users and instructors, as well as some pretty fun kids activities. We will have a reduction kiln opening in the morning at 11 am, which is always impressive. We’re also hoping to have food trucks on site as well, to give the Clay Fest a true fall festival feel.”

“That’s all true,” Torgison agrees. “There will be clay crafts for kids, and pottery games for adults, and plenty of opportunities for everyone to get their hands dirty. All activities will be free, and there has been a great response so far. We’d like to keep the community at large involved in what’s happening at Rosewood, and hopefully we can make Clay Fest an annual event. This region has so many great local potteries and art centers supporting the craft, and many of them, including Rosewood, have been serving the community for over 30 years now.” 


Pottery is defined as the craft of making ceramic material into pots or pottery wares using clay, and it is one of the oldest art forms practiced by human beings, linking us in many ways with a tradition that extends back to our distant, prehistoric ancestors. Researchers believe that China gave the world its first pottery, and the art became so identified with the area that the country lends its name, the generic term “china”, as our everyday English term for porcelain. In 2012 in the journal SCIENCE, Dr. Ofer Bar-Yosef, an archaeologist at Harvard, published a study which revealed that fragments of ancient pottery found in southern China date back some 20,000 years, making them the world’s oldest known pottery — 2,000 to 3,000 years older than examples found in East Asia and elsewhere. The ceramics, the archaeologist states in the study, probably consisted of simple concave vessels that were likely used for cooking food. The different major types of pottery wares common today include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.

Local ties

Obviously, the art of pottery is common among cultures the world over. But is there a large pottery-loving subculture here in the Dayton area?

“The Miami Valley, and Ohio in general, has a rich pottery tradition,” Torgison says. “Local potteries and community centers carry on these traditions and instill a sense of continuity with Ohio’s roots in brick and china production. Clay is a natural material to help us explore our creativity and shape our ideas. Making something by hand is a fulfilling experience, and with ceramics we have the opportunity to make the tableware and objects that serve food to our loved ones or decorate our homes. Visit any craft fair this time of year and you will experience the tremendous talent this area boasts, and the interest from the community at large to support that talent.”

Given the interest shown by the local pottery and ceramics community, it’s no surprise that Clay Fest has drawn a number of major sponsors for its first year. The Kettering Parks Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, the Kettering Arts Council, and Cornell Studio Supply have all signed on to sponsor the event, and have pledged their support for the inaugural event’s return in the future. Also, all proceeds from pottery sales at our events benefit the Kettering Parks Foundation, which supports the arts in the community through adult and child arts education programs.

Local artist Glen Martin Taylor

Local artist Glen Martin Taylor works in pottery and has been doing so for four years now. Unfortunately, the type of work he does doesn’t lend itself well to a festival setting, and, although he and his work are well known to area pottery aficionados, he won’t be taking part in this year’s Clay Fest. He hopes to, however, in the future. 

“I am not going to be there because of the work I’m doing,” Taylor says when speaking to the Dayton City Paper recently. “It’s rather fragile. I actually make pottery; I make bowls and all kinds of things. And right now I’m going through a phase – well, there’s a Japanese art called kintsugi, which literally means the ‘art of repairing broken pottery’. It was started a long time ago when the Emperor broke his favorite dish and he sent it back to the potter and the potter repaired the dish with gold inlay.”

Martin Taylor goes on to explain how he will create a work of art in ceramics, then purposefully break it, only to go back and repair it with lacquer dusted or mixed powdered precious metals, in an artistic form. Kintsugi, which is also known as kintsukuroi, is more than just an artistic term. As a philosophy which arises from Buddhism, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to be disguised, and the philosophy and sense of serenity inherent in the art very much comes through in Martin Taylor’s (I researched him online but I am not sure is Martin is his middle name or if his last name is Martin Taylor without the hyphen) voice when he speaks about his work. 

“I make bowls and pots and things,” Taylor says. “And lately, over the past six months or so, I break them. Then I put them back together in a rather interesting way. I use stained glass techniques where you use copper foil. I resolder the bowls back together, and I also fill in the broken pieces with twigs, and barbed wire, and all kinds of other materials. A lot of it is pretty delicate work. I’m very much interested in the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which is an Eastern tradition that celebrates the imperfections in life – things that are flawed and imperfect.”

As I’m sure the Japanese masters of wabi-sabi and kintsugi would understand and appreciate, Glen Martin Taylor has embraced the philosophy, and through that he views the world, and his art from a position of great serenity and peace. No tortured artist, Taylor seems to draw a sense of harmony and peace from the work that he does.

“At this point in life,” he says. “You realize that all of us have a broken part of us, whether we’re broken a little bit from childhood, or broken from life, it just wears us down. So my artwork is all about reconnecting with that broken part of us. We can reconstruct ourselves, just like I reconstruct my pottery, in creative ways.”

He hesitates before continuing. “We can still be beautiful and perfect even though we may be broken at the same time.” 


A celebration of clay

As part of its “2017 Celebration of Clay”, the Rosewood Arts Center has a number of upcoming events scheduled, and Clay Fest is just one of those. On Sept 23 and 24, acclaimed ceramic artist CJ Niehaus will lead a hands-on workshop and give an artist’s talk in conjunction with her workshop. Niehaus is a Professor of Ceramics at McHenry County College outside of Chicago, and has exhibited throughout the United States. She was recently awarded Contemporary Craft’s 2017 LEAP Award. Niehaus’s whimsical, nature-inspired ceramic artworks are constructed on porcelain with underglaze pencils and washes. The Arts Center is also rolling out new ceramics programs for the public to participate in. Pottery Practice, a new-and-improved Raku Workshop, plus additional sections of Wheel Pottery: Intro Workshop are joining favorites like Wheel Throwing for Reduction Firing, Glazed and Confused and Surface Decoration for Wheel Thrown Forms. 

The Rosewood Arts Centre in Kettering is a wonderful local resource, dedicated to enriching the quality of life for the residents of Kettering and the greater Dayton area by providing creative experiences through the arts. A division of the City of Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts, Rosewood presents over 400 classes annually for youth and adults as well as gallery exhibitions, theatre performances, artist studios, and special events. With specialized facilities including a black and white darkroom, glass and jewelry studios – along with ceramics, of course – the facility hosts over 100,000 visitors every year.

Clay Fest promises to be an event that residents will embrace year after year. If you are so inclined, come out to Kettering on Sept 30 and help to celebrate pottery, earthenware, the arts, and the broken – but repaired and beautiful – beings which we are.

Clay Fest will be held at the Rosewood Arts Center, 2655 Olson Drive in Kettering, on Sept 30 from 10 am – 2 pm. Admission is free and open to all ages. For more information on Clay Fest and other upcoming classes and events, contact the Rosewood Arts Center at 937-296-0294 or visit

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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