In the pottery studio toward the back of Temple’s Cultural Activities Center, master potter Larry Matthews leads his workshop students through the process of “throwing and firing.”
“It’s called turnin’ and burnin’ on the east coast,” the 60-something instructor said, describing the steps he’s teaching this weekday morning. He’s talking about shaping raw clay on a revolving turntable into a graceful bowl, waiting a suitable time for the piece to dry and then cooking it in a kiln at more than 2,000 degrees. Glazing is added to some of his students’ creations and the shelves are filled with colorful clay concoctions.
Part of the Temple CAC’s stated mission is “... promoting participation in the arts,” and the folks in this day’s pottery class are literally up to their elbows in participation. Matthews said some people are shy about getting dirty, but it’s obviously not a problem for today’s class.
At the work table, a modest, grapefruit-size creation gradually takes form. “I’m not sure what it is yet,” said Brittany Chasteen, of Temple. A graduate student at Texas State University in San Marcos, Chasteen is a newbie. “It’s my first experience, and I like it.”
In the next room, a more experienced craftsperson, Beth Allen from Rosebud, applies deft strokes to the ornamentation on her project.
Allen began her clay odyssey at CAC in the fall with instructor Marilyn Ritchie and has continued with Matthews in his summer program.
“I’d like to keep going with clay,” she said. “I’m enjoying it very much — it’s much more calming than teaching school.”
Matthews, who grew up in Killeen, has a kids day each Monday at CAC. “We do limit the children’s class to eight participants,” he said. And given the generous one-on-one time this instructor affords each student, that seems a wise decision. “The kids are great,” Matthews said, proudly pointing out some of the “taco fish” shaped and fired by his young potters.
Matthews has worked in the music education field, been a school counselor and owned a furniture refinishing shop. But, “when I saw a lady throwing a pot,” he said, “I knew right away: that’s for me.” He now specializes in “handcrafted, functional stoneware pottery” and describes the process as requiring “patience and practice from beginning to end.”
The Killeen Senior Center at Lions Club Park, 1700 B East Stan Schlueter Loop, has engaged Matthews for adult pottery classes on Thursdays starting today. Two separate classes are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and noon to 2 p.m. Call 254-501-6399 for information.
A blast of heat surges from the kiln as Matthews places a pot into the oven. Turning to his students he reassures them, “The only difference between you and me is ten thousand pots.”