Natchez potter discovers young artists among Clay Campers
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2003
NATCHEZ &045;&045; Conner Burns doesn’t care if his summer students become artists or attorneys.
He just wants to make sure they learn they can do anything &045;&045; and his weeklong pottery class is teaching them just that.
So on Wednesday afternoon, 14 students were hunched over their creations, pinching and smoothing and rolling clay to build birdhouses.
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This is the first event in Burns’ new studio on Franklin Street, and he couldn’t think of a better way to christen it than with a Clay Camp for 8- to 15-year-olds.
&uot;Everybody here is such creative artists,&uot; Burns said.
&uot;It’s been really fun. The best part is seeing them show up excited. My goal is to help them enjoy what they’re doing and have some success.&uot;
Clay Camp is more than an arts and crafts session at a traditional camp. The students sit in a bright, airy studio, legs dangling off chrome stools. Since Monday, the children &045;&045; 14 each in the morning and afternoon sessions &045;&045; have been learning new terms associated with pottery &045;&045; terms like &uot;pinch pots&uot; and &uot;scoring.&uot;
But they have also learned that everyday objects &045;&045; pencils and plastic spoons, springs and combs &045;&045; can help turn a lump of gray clay, worked with their own hands, into just about anything.
Eight-year-old Amelia Conn made a family of snails and a skeleton. Those pieces, along with small pots and goblets and cartoon faces, sit in a back room at the studio, waiting to be glazed and fired.
Conn considers herself old hat at working with clay.
&uot;When I was a little girl, I had a clay kit,&uot; she said. &uot;My mama signed me up (for the camp) because she knew I was going to enjoy it.&uot;
Fifteen-year-old Pete Burns worked on a project with Conner, his godfather, last year, a clay Tower of Babel for religion class. Although Pete said the &uot;closest&uot; he usually comes to art is his guitar, he has enjoyed the camp.
&uot;It makes me feel like I can express myself,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m hoping to pursue a music career &045;&045; but I really do enjoy this, too.&uot;
Melanie Vogt and Ryan Curry &045;&045; who during the school year teach in Vidalia, La., and Natchez, respectively &045;&045; are assisting Burns with the class.
&uot;They’re so attentive,&uot; Vogt said, watching the students bent over their birdhouses. &uot;They share so well, and they are so kind to each other.&uot;
Abi Brown &045;&045; who said the clay feels like mud and Play-Doh &045;&045; liked making pinch pots the best &045;&045; and she liked the creativity that went along with it.
&uot;You can make the pot into anything you want to,&uot; she said, noting that hers was a creamer.
When the camp is over Friday, the students won’t say goodbye to Burns. After he fires all of the pieces, the children &045;&045; and their parents and grandparents &045;&045; will be invited to a special gallery showing of their work on Friday, Aug. 8.
&uot;(Art) helps them to see the possibility in their creativity &045;&045; and to see the success there,&uot; Burns said. &uot;It opens up a whole lot of doors and spills over beyond art. … They know that can do anything and be anything. Whether they become an artist or an attorney, this shows them they do have the ability to think creatively.&uot;
Conn conveys the same message, albeit in 8-year-old speak: &uot;It learns you how to make stuff,&uot; she said of the camp. &uot;And if you try real hard, you can make it real good.&uot;