CORTONA PROFILES - NO. 15

IF YOU WANT TO TRY YOUR HAND AT POTTING OR GIFT A MEMBERSHIP TO SOMEONE WHO DOES, TUSCAN CLAY LAB IS THE PLACE...

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 school happen.
Alison Koetser, 28/08/2023 09:16:22

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