Hands On

Urban Art Co-op offers a new space to discover clay, among other things

Karen Mannino and Nick Lowe throw clay on a pottery wheel at Urban Art Co-op. - SARAH WURTZ
Sarah Wurtz
Karen Mannino and Nick Lowe throw clay on a pottery wheel at Urban Art Co-op.

Nick Lowe is a hands-on kind of guy, but his day job in information technology doesn't provide much opportunity for that.

"I pound on a keyboard all day writing code, transforming data, and solving virtual problems," says Lowe. It's worthwhile, he says, but there is nothing physical to look at or touch.

On weekends and evenings, however, Lowe explores a more tangible type of touch.

"Pottery is completely different," he says. "I do find that my time at the studio allows me to stop thinking about all the multi-variable details that fill up my workday and lets me focus on a completely different set of problems to solve. Problems that are both simpler and, in many ways, more complex than telling a computer what to do."

Lowe, who began working with clay three years ago, is president of Urban Art Co-op and one of five founding members of the new art space. Other founding members include Karen Mannino, who has a degree in studio art, as well as Autumn Bunton, John Newman, JoDee Moody and Keith Harger, all of whom teach classes there.

"[The idea behind the project] was to create a place that would support local artists of all levels and create an environment of collaboration among different art media," says Lowe.

Annual membership is $50 per year, plus studio rental fees, which allows members access to both wheel-throwing and hand-building. The space is also available for event rental, such as birthday parties and corporate team building.

The classes taught at Urban Art Co-op are mostly along the lines of wheel-throwing and hand-building, says Moody, the co-op's marketing director. They're adding workshops in other media, such as jewelry-making and felting — a technique for making fabric — and hope to set aside space to display artwork.

All ages and ability levels are welcome at Urban Art Co-op, says Lowe, who notes that one of the things that attracted him to working with clay is its experimental nature.

"Using only my hands, I physically choose what properties I want to give to the lump of clay spinning on the potter's wheel," he says, adding that, unlike in computing, mistakes not only happen, they're a great teaching tool.

"An unintentional bump of a pot being thrown, or a glaze that runs when applied, or a kiln that over-fires can lead to pieces of pottery that could never be planned for, but are cherished for their uniqueness," says Lowe. "I really like this aspect of pottery, or, I guess, any art in general where mistakes can become something more than a bug that needs to be fixed." ♦

Urban Art Co-op • 3017 N. Monroe • urbanartcoop.org • 720-7624