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Getting your hands dirty at Harvest House

Seniors working on art projects

One of Asheville’s best kept secret is housed in the basement of Harvest House, a recreation center at 205 Kenilworth Road and part of the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department.

It offers lots of activities directed toward seniors. At street level the center has a pool room and a large and a small multipurpose rooms. On a lower floor, there are several studio/classrooms; one used for a weaving class, and a huge, complete wood shop. Lastly — and the well kept secret — there is a room where ceramic sculpture is taught.

On any Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9:00 to noon, the sculpture classes meet in the downstairs (basement) studio, which is a moderate sized, well lit room. Peek inside and you will see a class constructing a variety of completely different works: a dog in a magician’s hat, a hippo waiting to be fired, a teapot shaped like a sumo wrestler, Sisyphus trying to push his burden up a mountain of Plexiglas, or a winged heart and a couple fat pigs.

In other words, just about anything or everything goes. Guided by teacher Jim Kransberger, students of various professional backgrounds and experiences work to bring their ideas into a three dimensional expression. Kransberger started working in clay in 2013 and, like all his students, he has a varied background.

From his professional life in sales, photography and publishing, Kransberger brings a set of skills that encourage those of his students who want to explore making and selling their work professionally to test that water. To that end, several of his students are applying to and getting accepted in regional shows.

From his artistic life, Jim brings experience not only in clay but in automata, wood sculpture and paper mache. His sculptures are shown in a number of galleries in the Southeastern United States. His combination of experiences enables him to guide rather than direct his students, and encourage them to explore their own vision.

The most unique aspect of these classes is that there is little regimentation and little structure; no pinch pots that need be made. Each student brings their own subject matter and work at their own speed. All assignments are self generated by the students themselves. No one gets bored with

doing kindergarten subject matter, unless that is where their interest lies.

Classes use low-fire clay, underglazes and their own tools, which students can purchase locally. There are no written-in-stone ceramic rules that cannot be ignored. Each class, be it Tuesday or Thursday, continues to have a core group of students, but there is always room for a new student, or at worst, a spot on a waiting list.

The atmosphere is warm and informal. Previous experience is not necessary and beginners are welcomed. Students range from experienced sculptors to people who have never dabbled in clay before. If you are interested in trying something new, or looking for a community of like-minded artists, this might be your new home away from home.

The class takes occasional field trips to galleries, studios and artists’ homes. In the past year, they have visited Penland School several times, gone to Atlanta the regional portion of the national American Craft Show, a gallery tour, and explored several local artists’ studios. The City of Asheville provides the driver and a van for transportation for a nominal fee, and, if there is room, “significant others” may hitch a ride.

Clay figure of woman floating in an inner tube

Camaraderie and common interests have led to parties held in various students’ homes. Kransberger has also arranged several shows of the classes’ work, including two at the North Asheville branch of the Public Library, and one at Miya Gallery in Weaverville.

If you are an Asheville City resident, the cost of the class is $80 for each two month session; for people who live outside the city limits, the cost is $90.

The class boasts a rather new kiln and is considering buying a new slab roller very soon; and — if you are nice to them — they will loan of a few tools in case you forget to bring your own . . . on occasion.

The measure of the class can be checked by slow rollover within the student ranks. There isn’t much. It is a great bunch people, having a very good time, doing what they enjoy in a nice little, family like, group.

Contact Jim at (828) 505-1907, if your muse so moves you.

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