Another great space has popped up, so to speak, in the Sugar Hill Arts District. In the basement of 71 Pop, a collaborative pop up retail building, you’ll find the city’s newest clay and ceramics studio.
Sugar Hill Clay has been open a little less than a month now, but Director Rick Pruckler already feels settled in the neighborhood. “It feels very grounded,” he explains. “The Sugar Hill district already has this incredible past and art is popping up everywhere now.”
The past he’s talking about is in the heyday of the 40’s and 50’s, when the Sugar Hill district had its colony of world-class jazz musicians. In the recent years, this part of Midtown has been in the forefront of revival. The clay studio plopped itself down between some of Detroit’s essential art venues: Detroit Artists Market, the N’Namdi gallery, and MOCAD. “We’re trying to create an arts destination place. There’s a walkway being developed between N’Namdi and 71 Pop where people can meet and hang out… It’s really exciting to be tied to all this art,” Pruckler says.
Their historical ties aren’t just in location either. For their teen classes, they’re partnering with Detroit’s long-standing Pewabic Pottery. “I’ve been teaching at Pewabic since 1986,” Pruckler says. “They needed more space for their Saturday classes and the fit was natural. We’ll probably have more projects with Pewabic in the future,” he explains.
The studio currently offers an array of classes: eating and drinking vessels, wheel throwing, tile, and intro to ceramics. 12-week courses are available, but drop-ins are always welcome too. Some classes cater specifically to one or another, but most of them are amenable to both seasoned veterans and those with no experience working with clay.
Tonya Lutz teaches Intro to Ceramics on Tuesdays. The class covers hand building, wheel throwing, glazing and firing, but it doubles as open studio time. “If you’re already advanced, you can go at your own pace,” she says. Even so, it helps to have instructors around. “There’s so much to learn and there are so many variables that it’s a really exciting field to get involved in,” Lutz says. “Different clay bodies react with different glazes, so there’s a lot going on. It’s mad scientist stuff.”
So while there is more than enough to keep busy between classes, workshops, and private parties, Pruckler has ambitious plans for the future: “It would be nice to get spaces for artists to rent for either working studios or sales,” he says, citing Chicago’s Lill Street as a model facility. “Detroit doesn’t have anything like this yet,” he notes, “but it’s needed.”
Sugar Hill Clay is also working out a proposal to the DMC about implementing a program to work with terminally ill children. “It would be mural work,” Pruckler says. “Each child would be making a piece that becomes part of a larger whole that would keep growing and evolving.”