Students in the Adirondack Program prepare for firing the kiln at Craigardan.

As the semester wound down, students in the fall 2018 Hamilton Adirondack Program participated in a ceramics workshop at Craigardan where they learned how to sculpt and throw clay. The workshop was led by resident artists with Michele Drozd, co-founder and executive director of Craigardan.

Craigardan, nestled in the heart of the High Peaks just down the road from the Hamilton Adirondack Program site in Keene, N.Y., provides ceramic artists, culinary artists, and writers-in-residence the creative space and inspiring place to enhance their respective craft. The site also boasts a small-scale farm to feed its residents and other locals from the community. The idea of community at the site is symbolized by the wood-fired kiln; it is the hearth where people gather to converse and enjoy each other’s company, as well as to complete impactful works of art.

We began the workshop by learning about what exactly clay is. In a physical sense, it is a conglomerate of fine-grain materials compacted together, or mud. However, in a complex sense, it is the material that has held a growing, prosperous community together. Clay’s makeup of very fine-grains from various origins makes it impermeable and able to support fluids.

Similarly, the act of making clay has brought different kinds of people to Craigardan, a community created and supported by individuals from all over the world. Following this philosophical moment, we then split into two groups, some worked on the spinning wheels learning how to throw clay and some worked on hand building, creating pottery using molds of various shapes and sizes. After an hour of work, the groups switched places and learned the other respective form of clay work. By the close of the workshop, we had all gained a new appreciation for the hard work and skill that goes into making pottery.

 In December we all returned to Craigardan for the firing of the wood kiln, into which our creations would be placed. The firing is a multi-day process and includes a potluck dinner to help support those in the community who volunteer in shifts to stoke the fire to temperatures upwards of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. On the night of the potluck, we contributed a locally sources kale-carrot salad and home-made brownies to an impressive and ever-replenished table of offerings, and some of us helped chop kindling to keep the fire stoked.

This ceramic workshop provided an excellent capstone to my experience as an intern at Craigardan this semester. Together, these experiences have made me realize that the Adirondack wilderness promotes a local community made up of some of the most supportive and happiest people I have ever met. Craigardan, like our Adirondack Program, reminds us that when it comes to making connections, it is not necessarily about the quantity of people, but the quality of people who surround you.


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