Goleta’s Clay Studio Aims to Be an International Arts Destination

“Our goal is to be an international arts destination,” said Clay Studio‘s program and creative director, Erica Ales. Don’t write that off as unrealistic until you visit the new-ish 24,000-square-foot Goleta facility.

I say “new-ish” because Clay Studio was founded in 2012 in a different location on the other side of the 101; this much enlarged version opened in January 2020, only to get somewhat hobbled by the pandemic. Now, as society is poised to reopen, Clay Studio can move beyond outdoor workshops and online lessons and let more people back inside.

Under the leadership of founder Patrick Hall and with the generosity of board member Lynda Weinman—not coincidentally, a show of their collaborative work is up at Sullivan Goss—the former printing press in a residential neighborhood off N. Fairview Avenue has been turned into a community art center beyond compare, at least anywhere near here.

Ales gave me a tour. Just off the entry is a gallery space, with a show by Don Reitz that’s open by appointment for now.

Nearby are eight artist’s studios—rented monthly, not only to potters, but printmakers and jewelers—with 15 more in the works. It felt invasive to photograph a studio without the artist’s permission, so you’ll have to imagine them.

The big open studio space reopens April 5 with baby steps: there will be eight wheels instead of the usual sixteen, with access limited to those with experience. (Beginners can take hand-building classes outside.) That will change as the pandemic wanes.

This is one of the smaller kilns. The huge one had something in front of it, so you’ll have to imagine that, too.

And here’s the glazing room.

During Covid-19, potters have been able to drop stuff off to have it fired, which they can then pick up outside later. Clay Studio will probably end up keeping this makeshift area.

A room to photograph your work.

And those of us who love pugs will be pleased to learn that this machine is a pug mill, used to turn clay scraps back into workable material. Its brand name is Peter Pugger.

Clay Studio even has a 3-D printer (below) and a CNC machine, which removes material rather than adding it. The classes have been popular online with students near and far, because all you need is a computer, and then the studio can do the printing and ship the result.

Take a look at Clay Studio‘s website for the many offerings—ceramics classes, sure, and also birthday events, team building, and yoga and meditation outside under the sprawling oak. And keep an eye out for future developments, including week-long workshop taught by visiting artists, art walks, and even dinners and movie nights.


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