License to Kiln

Pottery shop wants to build relationships with the community

By Octavio Serrano

Mishy Katz had some experience with pottery when she was a kid, but when she walked into the art studio during her college years, she fell in love with the craft. 

“I walked into the studio at ASU in 1970 and had not really done clay, and that was it for me,” Katz says.

Katz graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts and ceramics in 1982, and eventually began sharing her passion for pottery.

Desert Dragon Pottery has been teaching the craft since 1999, and its goal is to provide a fun workspace for people. Its diverse set of skill classes, rural feel and flexibility make it a special place for the community.

Desert Dragon Pottery’s subjects include pottery wheel, sculpture, paint on pottery, glazing, and custom creating and repair. Its ability to adapt to the skill level of its students is what turns rookies into seasoned veterans.

The pottery wheel class gives students the basics to establish a solid foundation and moves on from there. Key points include how to center the clay and crate a cylinder.

Students’ creations are dried, fired to bisque and ready for students to glaze in a second session, with additional instruction.

This leads to sculpture basics, where students will learn hand building.

“We have the ability to learn hot to use a pottery studio without the wheel, which is sculpture and handling,” Katz says. “We also have the opportunity to learn how to use the potter wheel. They (students) want to learn how to use the gadget and it’s a really cool tool that allows you to make things quickly.

“I have had people come in over the years as total beginners and they are now professionals.”

Desert Dragon Pottery, however, is not a typical brick-and-mortar establishment. From the moment people step inside, they are welcomed by an air of close-knit relationships.

Katz says she enjoys Desert Dragon Pottery’s flexibility.

“It’s not in a shopping center, it’s in a rural location, so that’s always different than what people expect,” she says.

What truly speaks to Katz about pottery is the hands-on experience and the ability to create and art piece from scratch. She finds this is a feeling she shares with most of her students.

“The universal appeal to people, the tactile qualities of it and the texture of it and the hands-on quality,” Katz says is why people enjoy pottery.

In the last year, Katz added music to make Desert Dragon Pottery more energetic.

“We have added live music once a month on Friday nights and it’s been a year now and it’s been going really well, so I’m thinking about adding some Sundays,” Katz says. “The events will coincide with some of the pottery stuff so people can have something extra special to enjoy.”

Katz wants to create more than a studio to create pottery. She wants people to know this is a community built with people in mind. She has taught pottery at PetSmart, GoDaddy and American Express.

“I have three couples who have met here and gone on to get married,” she says. “It’s really neat to see that growth and people learning clay and loving clay.”

She has also reached out to the disabled community.

“We have offered, all summer long, free classes for autistic kids and adults and we will continue to do that,” Katz says. “It’s free to anyone on the spectrum and it’s giving them the opportunity to gain some confidence.” 

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