A peaceful activity


Porter Rockwell, Beverly Driscoll and Gail Lyons work at the AVTEC ceramics studio (Heidi Zemach photo)
Porter Rockwell, Beverly Driscoll and Gail Lyons work at the AVTEC ceramics studio (Heidi Zemach photo)

It isn’t quite Santa’s workshop, but it sure comes close. The ceramics room at AVTEC has been filled with community members every Saturday afternoon pouring, painting, and glazing a wide assortment of ceramic items, and having a blast. Some 21 people dropped in on Saturday to spend the afternoon creating beautiful trays, bowls, animals, and even a Christmas tree. Twenty had shown up the week before, and sometimes the place is even busier.

Porter Rockwell was there with his grandmother Beverly Driscoll, painting up a storm. He’s a regular, and clearly loves the activity. “I just like to go here to make stuff. Stuff that’s useful, stuff that looks good,” he said. Rockwell had chosen to take home an owl that somebody had left on the “free shelf,” and was pleased with how his own ceramic cat had turned out. “It’s great gifting,” said Gail Lyons. Another said it was a form of meditation, and a time to get away from the children- “Mommy Time.” They said there were a large amount of different molds to choose from.

They use a process known as slipcasting, wherein liquid clay is poured into a mold, then left to solidify over the following week. It is then painted, glazed, and fired in the AVTEC kiln, in a process that takes three weeks to complete. For just $5 per week, anyone in the community can drop in, and each person can have up to four items being worked on at a time.


Jamie Fredrickson, AVTEC’s activities coordinator, runs the ceramics room both for AVTEC students who use it throughout the week, and for the community program she started. She gets help from volunteer Toni Lee, who everybody depends on for help and advice on their projecst.

Ceramics FansThe program has been so successful, they are considering offering it during some weeknights during the winter season in addition to Saturday afternoons, Fredrickson said.

While a lot of people do come in before Christmas to make handmade gifts she anticipates it will become busy again when it starts up in January and February because people are starving for something to do in town, and because it’s a good activity. “It’s a great group of people, they help each other out, and they give each other creative ideas too,” she said.

The program began last year, and was offered every Saturday until May. AVTEC partnered with the Independent Living Center, or TRAILS (Total Recreation and Independent Living Services), which had already done a five-session class. TRAILS agreed to provide volunteers to help show the others how to do it on an ongoing basis, and also collected the money and used it to replenish the supplies. Meanwhile AVTEC would fire the projects in its kiln. This year, Qutekcak Native Tribe is overseeing that task in coordination with AVTEC.

Gabriella ZamarripaA sense of peace and camaraderie among the participants was palpable in the ceramics room, one that stood in stark contrast to the frenzied running around and shopping going on outside. “We could be at Tony’s, but we come here,” said one crafter. “What else is there to do here in the winter?” Said another.



  1. I love this ceramics class and I wish there was more activities to do like this in Seward

  2. What a creative and fun idea!