Students of the Abu Dhabi Pottery learn what can, and cannot, be done at the potter’s wheel

Students of the Abu Dhabi Pottery are hard at work again after their recent debut exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation.

Abu Dhabi Pottery, a combined pottery/workshop/gallery, was established in 1994 by Homa Vafaie-Farley.

Passionate about clay, Homa darts around her studio watching, helping and encouraging students. “Close your eyes and see with you fingers,” Homa urges one before checking the smoothness of another’s sanding work.

Homa is proud that her students - including children - exhibited their work in September. She says, “Forty students, children and adults, each displayed four pieces. Work included animals and farms made by children, pots made by hand or on the wheel, large pots and complicated pieces.

"I was proud of the work and wanted to encourage the students - and anyone else who might be interested in pottery or the arts. It was the first exhibition we have held outside the actual pottery and I hope to repeat it in the future.”

Besides a teacher, Homa is an accomplished artist and participant of international exhibitions. Two of her pots are on permanent display in the Pottery and Glass Museum in her native Iran.

Homa began pottery 14 years ago in Abu Dhabi. Since then she has continually broadened her knowledge under the guidance of professional potters in the UK and Japan and recently embarked upon a degree in Ceramics Design.

When imparting knowledge to others, Homa tries to keep class numbers small. At any one time different skills are practised by students with varying experience.

Mayumi who has been learning for a year was ‘dry sanding’ her work and Nancy, in her fourth class, was working on her first coil pot and “enjoying getting my hands dirty and letting the kid in me out!”

Learning the coil technique is one of the steps students learn while mastering clay.

The first step is creating a ‘pinch pot’ or ‘thumb pot’ made as its name suggests. Second is learning the ‘slab’ by rolling the clay like pastry, a technique used to produce boxes, flat dishes and plaques. Third is the ‘coil’ technique where long rolls of clay are wound into pots.

“By following these steps,” says Homa, “people learn what can and can’t be done with clay”.

“By experimenting, making things by hand, people are more prepared when they sit at the potter’s wheel. It’s not just ability; there is so much that has to be done and learned - co-ordination, how much pressure and water to apply to the clay - as well as operating the machine. It takes time to learn. Results don’t come straight away,” she adds.

It’s an attitude that is appreciated when learning a new skill. Says Nancy, “I’ve done classes elsewhere previously, but with a potter, not a teacher. If anyone’s work was not perfect, he would take over and finish it.”

Pottery class
Venue: Abu Dhabi Pottery, near Khalidiya Garden.
Classes: Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 9.30am to 11am and from 6pm to 7.30pm on Sunday and Monday.
Tuesday is only for ladies, from 6 to 7.30pm. Children’s classes are from 4.30 to 5.30pm on Saturday and Monday.