Sculpting for a cause

Heightened interest in working with clay has boosted enrollment in the ceramics program at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge in recent years, but the demand is outpacing the center’s ability to provide up-to-date equipment.

The center saw more than 650 people take ceramics courses last year, with students ranging from toddlers to seniors. But the center’s 40-year-old kiln, which fires up the clay pieces to form pottery and sculptures, has reached its age limit. The old oven is a burden to students, slowing down their work process, said Miriam Balcazar, the ceramics department director.

The center, which buys and sells its own clay to students, doesn’t have a budget to purchase new equipment, so ten residents from Glendale to Pasadena formed a guild to raise money for a more energy- and cost-efficient kiln, which Balcazar said will cost from $18,000 to $20,000 to purchase and install.

The Foothills Ceramics Support Guild’s first order of business is a fundraiser on Oct. 23 at the home of La Cañada Flintridge residents Richard and Sandra Godspeed to kick off efforts to buy the new kiln and raise awareness about the 45-year-old ceramics program.

“I think people in the La Cañada Flintridge community know about [the program],” said Christine Rose, a member of the guild. “But the outside community doesn’t know about it.”

The guild aims to attract a broader group of people to the program, which already sees students from Silver Lake, the San Fernando Valley and Lancaster, said Rose.

But the emphasis is on raising funds for the program, which struggles monthly to make ends meet.

“We are barely making even,” said Balcazar.

The community center sells art twice a year, in June and December. Twenty-five percent of the approximately $50,000 gross annual sales support the ceramics program; the remaining profits go to the artists.

Twenty-four artists intend to donate pieces valued at $50-$300 each to the fundraiser’s silent auction.

Biliana Popova, a teacher at Flintridge Preparatory School, will donate a horizontal striped turn-top vase. The La Crescenta artist has been sculpting since 1993 and returns to the community center for its environment.

“It feels like a family,” she said. “A lot of people are very serious about working with clay.”

Lilia Venier began coming to the center for the ceramics program seven years ago, even though she has her own studio at home. She enjoys sculpting in the company of other professional artists who encourage creativity.

“I have the freedom to do whatever I have in mind,” she said.

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