Tuscan Clay Lab, Cortona’s first pottery school and a wonderful space just
off Via Nazionale, is likely set to become THE long awaited creative and
cultural hub for artists in town. It was conceived by Tamara Godivier who, with
three partners, set up a cooperative which allows them to pot, teach, hold
events and put on exhibitions.
Remember the potting scene from the film Ghost? A very sexy scene made
wonderfully romantic by Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze: it apparently made millions
of people consider, just for a moment, taking up pottery as a hobby.
Tamara was a mere 12 years old when she (first!) saw the film, and has nurtured,
ever since, the secret dream of learning the craft. To master it, will be one
of her life’s achievements.
Of life achievements, Tamara has a variety, the greatest of which she
claims are her two children, Uma and Marcello. They were preceded by a career
as a singer-songwriter (check out Full Moon Doll 2010 (EMI-Virgin) on You Tube),
an artist manager for bands, the writing and directing of a movie with partner
Marcus and more recently, studying to become a Doula (qualified to give
nonmedical assistance to women during labour and providing emotional and
physical support throughout the process of childbirth).
Tamara, now 40, was born in South Africa, raised in Paris and has lived
in Greece and LA (where she recorded her album). She says she feels ‘a bit of
an imposter’ because she seems able to turn her hand to many different things, but
given her successes, multidisciplinary might be a better word. She finds bad
weather inspiring (because it means she can stay inside and be creative) and
thinks Cortona is ‘heaven’ for both kids and parents.
She was introduced to Cortona by Marcus in 2015 and when pregnant with
Uma in 2016, literally felt the need to have the earth between her hands. “I
felt a strong link between motherhood and the earth,” she says. This led her to sound out the various ceramic
shops in town, asking if one of them might teach her how to pot. Much to her
frustration, the response – across town - was negative, until she met Clelia
Tondini who has a ceramic studio in via Guelfa. “I discovered something I
loved”, says Tamara.
The creation of Tuscan Clay Lab was a natural evolution. She wanted to
share the visceral experience of working with clay that had given her such
satisfaction. On the premise that Cortona had no such facility, with her innate
‘joie de vivre’, she set about ensuring one became available. “Motherhood can be very empowering”, she says,
“it gave me the push I needed to make Tuscan Clay happen”.
An architect’s daughter, Tamara was already prepared, with “a mood board
pinned in her head” and ideas that she’d saved, over the years, on her
computer. Sourcing a local design studio (Plumeria Home), she was able to
transform her mental blueprints into an ambience that is no run of the mill
interior; the studio is simple, functional and beautiful. Definitely something
to go take a peek at: High, vaulted ceilings, stunning lighting, two big kilns
(one low fire kiln for terracotta and one high fire kiln for stoneware or
‘gres’), two enormous rooms for potting – with four potting wheels (soon to be
six) - and ample space for displaying finished artwork and/or holding
exhibitions and special events.
With her partners, Jennifer Griffiths, a feminist art historian, Maria
Dondero, potter and teacher in Athens, (GA) and Caterina Cittadini from
Montagna Cortonese (a local!), they are now well equipped, in every sense, to
share the ‘definitive’ clay experience.
There are courses for beginners, one-off experiences for visitors, membership
options for autonomous and experienced ceramicists and even creative play
sessions for children over 5. Groups are
also welcome and catered to by Jennifer Griffiths who provides cultural
presentations accompanied by a glass (or two) of Prosecco – on subjects such as
the Etruscans, Medieval heraldry and the ancient rituals of oil and wine making
– all combined, with hands-on ‘historic’ clay experiences.
Perhaps in homage to the iconic scene in Ghost, there is also a romantic
package called ‘Date Night’. Not exclusive to dating couples – anyone is
actually welcome – you can learn how to throw a pot on the wheel while enjoying
a bottle of wine and a personal ‘charcuterie’ or cheese board for two!
Inspired start-ups are rare, especially in Italy where tortuous
bureaucracy is prone to impede such initiatives. The mere fact that Tuscan Clay
Lab can hold potting classes as well as independent events and shows, could
prove to be a dream come true for many of Cortona’s creative thinkers and doers.
It’s been a LONG time coming.
“Listen to your dreams while you’re awake,” is a line from one of
Tamara’s songs (The Fly and the Ant). It has had me thinking for days. I’ll
leave you to make of it what you will, but my hat truly goes off to Tamara and
her partners for listening to their dream and making Cortona’s first pottery