Susan Snyder’s smile was obvious, even with a mask on.
As she coached along a child, her hands brushed over a length of mud-brown clay. Past pottery creations and paintable figures lined every wall and table around her, the bright paint standing out against blank white. As people walked in, she looked up and seemed to beam even wider.
Snyder owns Pottery House Studio, a local pottery studio located on South Pete Ellis Drive. The studio offers pottery painting, clay firing and pottery classes for children and adults. As an artist herself, Snyder loves working with people and seeing what they choose to make.
“There’s so much that can be done with clay, so it’s fascinating to see,” Snyder said. “Every single step of it is really interesting to me, from shaping it to glazing it.”
Snyder became interested in pottery after transferring to IU and taking a class. After a few years of study, she did a ceramics program in Bologna, Italy, which led her to apply to a program in Faenza, Italy. There, she spent more than 1,100 hours training in pottery techniques, including throwing on the wheel, making molds and learning how to do the traditional style of decoration, called maiolica, she said.
Though she now owns Pottery House Studio, she’s continued working on her art. She’s a part of a local clay potter’s guild, and works of hers are on display at the By Hand Gallery, a locally owned Bloomington gallery. Snyder also sells her pottery, including tiles, backsplashes and customizable dinner sets on her website.
Outside the studio, a cat’s getting his spots. Jude Vanderberg, 8, is painting an animal figurine on a day out with his aunt Jordyn Watkins and uncle Paul Watkins. The group was looking for something to do locally, as Jude was visiting from out of town.
“It’s our first time here,” Jordyn said. “We try to do something new every time he comes down around Bloomington.”
Pottery House Studio offers painting both indoors and outdoors with call-ahead reservations. Snyder also teaches classes for both children and adults.
Children’s classes are on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, and adult classes are on Thursday nights or Friday mornings. A five-week long session costs $125 and includes all necessary materials.
The pots the adults were making were sitting out, as Snyder had trimmed the bottoms. Snyder pointed out what the kids had been working on inside: homemade Chia Pets.
While the adult classes throw on the wheel, Snyder said the kids’ classes work on hand-building skills such as pinch pots, coils and slab work.
The studio also offers take-home kits for both painting and clay. Customers can shop online or come in to pick out figures and paint them in person. Snyder offers free local delivery — to dorms too, she added. She teaches an online maiolica workshop as well, based on her instruction in Faenza.
Snyder wants people to know that no experience is necessary to come to the studio.
“If someone wants to drop in on a Saturday and learn how to throw on the wheel, that’s available as well,” Snyder said. “Or if you’re looking for a fun activity, I definitely recommend taking a class — that way, you have a chance to learn more than what you would just dropping in.”
Simone Vilaca has been coming to classes and helping out at the studio for two and a half years. In her time there, she’s learned to do slab work and to paint maiolica, which she said was her favorite to learn.
When asked about her favorite part of the studio, she had a simple answer.
“Susan — she’s a good teacher, she’s kind and she loves what she does,” Vilaca said. “And the people that come here, everyone is awesome.”
“It’s a wonderful community of people — it’s not just a studio,” Snyder said. “There’s a lot of people who have been coming for a long time, and it feels kind of like an extended family.”