Friday nights at Multnomah Arts Center can get downright dirty. Polliwogs and their progenitors can be found transforming clumps of clay into monster menageries and goofy goblets. The MAC’s ceramics studio transforms into a magical clay playground where creativity abounds. The Fall session starts just in the nick of time too. With holidays around the corner, it’s high time to get busy creating all those crafty gifts for grandma and grandpa. TGIF, indeed.

For just $20 a session per each child-adult pair, you get a 5 pound hunk of clay to make whatever artful creation you can conjure up. Additional family members are welcome to join in for an additional $10 a head. Once you’ve gained entry, you’ll have access to super tools and hands-on guidance from the MACs generous and capable teachers. There’s no experience necessary but this workshop packs plenty of punch for both seasoned earth slingers and the uninitiated.

Clay nights are every Friday from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. Though the average age is about 7 or 8, though all ages from toddlers to teens have been known to partake. Fall session runs from October 5th to December 7th. Commitment phobic? Have no fear, all you have to do is show up, there’s no pre-registration.

Factor in Time for Firing and Glazing
Though many families just come to play with clay, you are welcomed and encouraged to make your masterpieces more permanent by firing and glazing them at no additional charge. Be forewarned, ceramic firing is a two step process that takes about 4 weeks from start to finish. Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you’ll leave it in the drying room for the capable kiln techs to work their magic on it. Once it’s dry, they’ll kiln fire it for you while you go about your busy lives. Once your pieces are out of the first kiln firing (and had their chance to cool) you can come back and add your glazes. They then go back in for a second firing to turn into the pretty, shiny things they were destined to be. Each firing has a turn around time of about two weeks, so plan on going every other week for a while to take full advantage of the studio and have some finished pieces done in time for holiday gifts.

About Multnomah Arts Center
Just 8 minutes up the hill from downtown in the heart of SW Portland’s Multnomah Village is an incredible art mecca that (sadly) many Portlanders don’t know about. This very large Portland Parks and Recs building houses some of the greatest publicly (and financially) accessible art facilities in the Pacific Northwest. From a full clay studio to a room full of looms, a darkroom, printing presses, sculpture studio, an arts based preschool, and jewelry making facilities, all at Parks and Recs prices. They’ve got art, music, and dance classes for kids and adults ages 18 months on up to infinity.

Not a creative bone in your body? Never fear, here are some project ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Monster Mouth Tree Ornaments: Make a wide, flat ring and add teeth, eyes, and a tongue. Remember a loop on top for the ribbon.
  • Leaf Wreath: Get inspiration from this autumn wreath and make a bunch of fall leaves using leaves from your yard as templates. Arrange the leaves around a flat, clay ring.
  • Tiny Hands Bowl: What grandma can resist the tiny handprints of children? Roll out a round, flat piece of clay big enough for your child’s hand to make a handprint. Squish their hand into the circle to get a good indentation. Carefully shape the flat circle into a bowl without losing the hand impression.
  • Cookie Cutter Ornaments: Use your favorite cookie cutters to make ornaments. Don’t stop at Christmas themed shapes. You know you’ve been dying to put all those weird cookie cutters to use. Add facial features and clothes to give them some pizazz.
  • Holiday Themed Gobblet: Make a pinch pot by pinching some clay into a vessel shape. Add a snowman or santa face, or any other silly face you can think up.
  • Stocking Wall Vase: Using a stocking cookie cutter, cut out two ¼” thick stocking shapes. Crumble up a piece of newspaper to use as a “stocking stuffer.” With the newspaper in place, bind the edges of both stockings together, leaving an opening on the top. Cut a hole in the back layer so you can hang the vase on a nail.
  • Snowman Candle Holder: Create an upside down, round shaped pinch pot for the snowman’s head. Give him a top hat, but leave a hole at the top of his hat and head for heat to escape. Add holes for eyes, nose, and mouth. Create a round plate big enough for him to sit on.
  • Are you an Ebenezer Scrooge? Skip the Christmas season and get a jump on valentine’s day. Make some stamped clay hearts out of ceramic clay. Create a cast of monster finger puppets, just make sure you make them bigger than your fingers, they’ll shrink about 25% in the kilns.

The Multnomah Arts Center isn’t the only place to get your crafty on. Portland is bursting at the seams with dens of creativity. Where’s your favorite place to make a beautiful mess with your little ones?

-Alanna Risse (Thanks for the photos!)