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Step away from the computer and go learn some pottery

Originally written for Philly

MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman on how the ceramics class she's teaching is actually about civic engagement and screen fatigue. And Patrick Swayze.

Sorry, is this NSFW?

Last winter, the MilkCrate team was looking for the perfect Martin Luther King Day project. To be honest, I was looking for something nearby to keep it manageable.

The project that met our simple criteria? A cleanup of Starr Garden, a rec center at 6th and Lombard (and — cool fact — what I have since learned is Philadelphia’s oldest playground). So we signed up. At some point during our four hours of scrubbing walls, sweeping sparkles and arranging cubbies (made out of milkcrates!), I noticed a kiln shoved in a corner. Hmm … this is when the wheels started turning.

Before my life in tech, I always loved to make art, whether it was sketching, sculpting or recently directing the brand and user interface for MilkCrate. Two winters ago, my parents paid for a ceramics class at Neighborhood Potters in my then-neighborhood of Fairmount. But since moving to Center City (and the subsequent shrinking of my fun budget), I found myself unwilling to pay hundreds of dollars for classes or a membership to the faraway makerspaces in town.

Fast forward to today and with the wonderful support of the Starr Garden staff, we have successfully run our first 10-week adult ceramics course, with me as teacher, and are launching the second series next week!

We designed these classes for the work-weary, the digitally-drained and dating-app disappointed. Single and in need of new places to meet folks? Coupled and looking for a good a date night activity? Eyes hurting from too many screens?

Sign up! (link to facebook page for more information here.)

Worst-case scenario, you will go home with an ugly coffee mug. Best-case scenario? You will find your soulmate, gain work-life balance and become a world-renowned artist. Low-risk, high-reward, amirite?

Classes are for 10 weeks on either Tuesdays or Thursdays. Classes kick off on October 11 and 13. They cost $15 each if you sign up for the whole ten weeks. You can also sign up for a single class, but we recommend coming for at least two so we can fire your work and then you can glaze it (and then we fire it again).

Nut that I am, I believe that ceramics at Starr (and eventually classes at other rec centers) can be more than a respite from our screens or way to meet a cutie IRL. It can be something even bigger — a way to connect young adults with their neighborhoods. Imagine, coming in for clay and leaving registered to vote, or a block captain or petitioning for tax reform. Boom. It’s that kind of connection to the city that keeps people here.

But since classes start next week and we still have a few open spots for Tuesday and Thursday nights, I’m going to tell you to ignore the big vision stuff. Just sign up for the cuties and the clay. Commit to giving yourself that much needed down time away from the screens and learn how to make something beautiful. Or ugly. Who cares. Just come make stuff. You will thank yourself.

P.S. There’s another, more personal and slightly ridiculous reason for all of this that must not go unwritten. My deep undying love for Patrick Swayze. I will admit, there is a part of me that hopes, somehow, this endeavor will end with his arms (or similarly amazing arms) wrapped around me while I fail to make a vase on the wheel. But really, it’s about civic engagement, guys, really.


P.P.S. Have a craft or hobby you want to share with others (and make some money!)? Throw your hat in the ring to be considered for the next batch of classes in 2017.

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