Art teacher’s new Clay House studio brings out creativity and color

From left, Kirsten Brazelton, 10, Stella Boulton, 8, and Makena Haley, 7 apply colored glaze to tiles made of clay.
(Susan Hoffman / Daily Pilot)
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Among the bars, sushi joints and spas lined up on 17th street in Costa Mesa sits a creativity-filled new neighbor thanks to Newport Beach resident Lisa Albert.

Albert, an art teacher in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, opened her studio, the Clay House, this past month. The quaint, one-story building has bisqueware, pottery that has already been fired, that visitors can come in to paint.

During the grand opening on Sept. 13, she hosted around 100 guests who came in to paint their own tiles.


“This is a place where people can just spend time together, paint, have conversation and share things,” Albert said. “I wanted a place for the community that felt relaxed and comfortable. That’s how the word ‘house’ came into the name.”

For more than two decades, the Australian native has taught at nine of Newport-Mesa’s school sites, including Rea, Pomona, Woodland and Mariners elementary schools. Albert currently teaches art at Newport Heights Elementary School in Newport Beach.

In addition to teaching in Newport-Mesa, she even holds after-school and weekend classes for students ages 5 to 12. Principals of Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa high schools have sent both their children to these classes for a couple of years now, Albert said.

“Our daughter has learned so much from her,” said Sarah Boulton, wife of Newport Harbor principal Sean Boulton. “When we went to the Clay House grand opening, she showed me how to use my brush and how to shade. Our whole family room is decorated with art that she’s done in Lisa’s class.”

Decades ago, after she graduated from the New South Wales University in Sydney, Australia, the artist took some time to visit the many corners of the world. She made her way through Egypt, Italy, France, Israel, Scotland and London.

While using a pay phone in London, an American man waiting in line for the phone asked for Albert’s help on how to operate it. A few years later, she would marry that man and move to the United States. She has lived in Newport Beach for 26 years.

Before her cozy, cottage-like shop became the Clay House, the space was used for dog-grooming services. She began leasing the space in July, after the canine groomers left.

“I’m pretty sure the walls were brown when I first walked in,” she said. “It just looked sad because there were all these walls and no light coming in.”

Albert worked with a handyman to knock down some inside walls, making the space in the back of the studio one big room for several tables and a counter directly across from the front door.

She even had the building’s giant front window cleaned up, allowing that light she highly desired to shine to all corners of the studio.

The Clay House has plates, vases, mugs, treasure boxes, tiles, picture frames, platters and even pumpkins for the fall season that guests can paint.

“There are definitely families who want to send their kids to art classes, but maybe they can’t do the weekly commitment,” Albert said. “That’s where the Clay House comes in. It’s a shame that art can’t always be taught at every school, but there can still be a place for it.”

The artist envisions a lot of date nights, baby showers, girls’ night outings and birthday parties in the Clay House’s future.

“We have a lot of bars on 17th street, but what about places where you can bring your family?” she said. “Even during the grand opening, most people coming in were father-daughter pairs.”

Albert also plans to host studio workshops one to three times a month. Upcoming events include painting for Halloween and Thanksgiving-themed plates.

The Clay House is open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. The studio is at 436½ 17th Street in Costa Mesa.