A dozen students sit at tables that form a "U" in the center of the room, brows knitted in concentration. Some dip their brushes in glaze and meticulously paint the greenware in front of them. Others "clean" the greenware, wetting the material and then gently smoothing the seams left by the pouring process.
This ceramic class is different. The adult students are all legally or totally blind.Ceramics is not a hobby one associates with the visually impaired, according to Nadeen Hackwell, who has extremely limited vision. "When I first heard about this class, I couldn't imagine it," she said. "I wondered about things like eyes, the detail things. We started out working with just one color and had someone else do the eyes. We joke here that blind people aren't allowed to paint eyes.
"The end result is amazing - to feel how smooth it comes out. I can't imagine that all that guck can come out so smooth. Of course, there's also the socializing."
According to class instructor Ruth Wheeler, socializing is a very important factor. "Some came out just to visit and then got involved," she said of her 16 students and the two-year-old class, which will conclude this month.
Wheeler had taught clay building at the School for the Blind and found the class was very popular with students. A friend, who worked with ceramics, suggested that low-vision adults might enjoy trying that medium. Wheeler didn't know a lot about ceramics but made it a point to learn. "If there's a question, we just make it up as we go. They do beautiful work."
The Utah Council of the Blind, the Ogden Association of the Blind and the school split the cost of a kiln. Students at the school also use the kiln, located in the school's art department.
Working with ceramics is nothing new to Connie Pesak, who has taken classes in the past. But since she had a stroke and an aneurysm, she must find new ways to accomplish familiar tasks. She can no longer count on her vision.
"I'm adjusting to real changes," said Elveda Dallof, whose macular deterioration left her with good peripheral vision but very little other sight and has altered her perception of colors. "I was so happy to find out about this group and be able to associate with these people. I needed to get out with people who have the same thing I've got - a problem seeing. This - both not seeing and ceramics - is all new to me."
Mary Zucol, who celebrated her 88th birthday during a recent class, gets frustrated because she's afraid she isn't doing a good job. "I think I miss some areas. But I like this. It takes up time, which seems to drag with me."
Phyllis Gibson encourages her. "You don't have to do perfect work. "As long as you're having fun."
Wilda Giles sees better than most of the students, thanks to two eye implants. At its worst, her vision was less limiting than her arthritis, she said.
Lana McKinsey describes her tunnel vision as "poking a hole in a piece of paper and then looking at everything through it." She loves to draw and meticulously paints glaze on a unicorn statue. "I'd give up anything to go to ceramics," she said. "I just love it."
Mary Collins, who was born blind, is cleaning a nativity set. "Hey Virginia," she calls to volunteer Virginia Andrews, a member of the Soroptimist Club who has been helping out since February. "Do I clean this off or leave it?"
Wheeler leans over and squints at the piece. "Better leave it," she smiles. "It's the lamb's ear."
Collins laughs along with volunteers Muriel Handy, Carol Perdue and student Rod Miller. And they all return to their art.