Worthington Spotlight

Wheeler at the wheel — Local artist molds love of creating with clay

Lynn Wheeler has been working with pottery for a long time.

A work-study assignment during her undergraduate days at Hiram College sparked a lifelong love of throwing clay for the Worthington resident.

“I was hired to fire the kiln and mix all the glazes,” she recalled. “The experience of doing it as a job really helped me understand and appreciate the process.”

Lynn Wheeler works on her pottery wheel, using a mirror to enable her to see the entire piece she is creating. (Spotlight photos by Rebecca Tien)

After completing a degree in art, Wheeler ran her own graphic design firm for about 25 years. Now she enjoys selling artistic creations made from clay in her home studio.

When Wheeler is not working clay at home, she can often be found teaching others the tricks of a very tricky trade.

For the past 13-plus years, Wheeler has shared her talents with the public at the Worthington Community Center via a range of courses for all skill levels. This is not finger molding clay. Throwing pottery on a wheel is a dicey proposition. Wheeler is quick to point out that, in the learning stages of pottery making, the media controls the artist.

“You can’t know everything about clay,” Wheeler explained. “There is so much interaction – pressure, wheel speed, water – people are surprised that it’s not as easy as it looks.”

For people interested in taking up pottery as a hobby, she has some friendly advice.

“Be patient and don’t be hard on yourself,” she said.

“You need to focus on the process and not the product. It works for people who accept that.”

The oldest known pieces of pottery are more than 16,000 years old. Some archaeological findings indicate that humans were making things out of clay as long as 30,000 years ago. That history still draws people to the craft today.

“It’s a tactile experience,” said Wheeler. “There’s an energy that goes into molding that clay.”

Throwing clay also provides an outlet. “It’s an escape,” Wheeler said. “You can’t do pottery unless you’re living in the moment.

“You can’t multitask if you’re doing clay. It’s a nice balance for people.”

An open mind is one key to success for aspiring potters, according to Wheeler. “People who end up in clay are lifelong learners,” she said.

Low expectations are not necessarily a bad thing when starting out.

When asked about the most popular items people like to create, Wheeler quickly responded, “In the beginning, whatever they can.”

She usually asks students to focus on creating cylinders first, because that shape can morph into any number of completed items.

“It’s fun to hear adults giggle like kids when something comes out right,” she said.

Wheeler’s pottery classes cater to all skill levels and are offered on a variety of days at the community center. In her home studio, Wheeler focuses on items that are designed to fit into the user’s lifestyle.

“I create strictly functional pottery for people to use,” including myriad items for the kitchen and bath, she said.

That way, if the student’s turn at the potter’s wheel ends up in the ditch, he or she still can bring home something to share with the family.

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