Abu Dhabi Pottery — keeping an art form as old as dirt alive

Abu Dhabi: Opened all the way back in 1994, arts institution Abu Dhabi Pottery continues to attract residents who want to express themselves with clay.

In the last 24 years, the organisation has been trying to keep this earliest forms of human artistic production alive.

“Pottery has been one of the oldest human inventions, so the sole idea to start something like this was to give the residents here an opportunity to understand and enjoy the idea of creating their own ceramic objects,” said Homa Farley, the brain behind Abu Dhabi Pottery.

“We opened the place as I really wanted to continue exploring and working with clay and at the same time pass on my knowledge to other interested parties,” Farley said, adding that her institution was the first modern pottery place in the UAE.

“Our services include pottery classes for adults and children, school or group visits, birthday parties, team building and specialised workshops,” she added, describing the array of activities offered.

The institute organises weekly classes.

Farley said the course starts with students being introduced to the basics of pottery making before they start making their own pottery themselves.

Training process

“Our classes usually start with a short explanation of the process of pottery making. This is followed by an introduction to hand-building techniques making a pinch pot, followed by slab and coil techniques.

“After this, we introduce the participants to the potter’s wheel. Sometimes the students do not wish to learn the hand-building techniques and are eager to go straight to the potter’s wheel, we are happy to do so but we suggest learning all the techniques step by step,” she added.

Farley also stressed that making pottery is not as easy as it looks — the process requires both patience and good technique to get it right.

“Learning pottery is not a fast process, so you have to be patient and not to expect too much from yourself especially where the potter’s wheel is concerned,” she said.

“Once the students learn the basic techniques, we move on to the next levels. Each piece can be glazed and decorated by the student with helpful guidance from our teachers. Pottery is a never-ending learning process — after 25 years, I am still learning. It requires a lot of discipline and dedication and if you have the passion, you will excel.”

In terms of the pottery made, Farley said the styles are different thanks to the diversity of the students who come from different nationalities.

“The items made during the classes do vary a lot, in one class we could have an Emirati, British, French, Lebanese, American or South African.

“My own style is inspired by the ancient Middle Eastern pottery as well as the scenery of the UAE,” she added.

Therapeutic benefits

Farley also spoke about the benefits of making pottery, describing it as therapeutic for the people attending, which, she said, is why residents enjoy attending the classes.

“Pottery, ceramics and working with clay, in general, is a very therapeutic art form, it is an art which nourishes your mind and body and relaxes you.

“When you work with clay, you forget everything and go into Zen mode. Many people find that this art is not only relaxing but also rewarding. It is wonderful to make your own pieces and to actually use them in your everyday life or simply look at your creation and feel pride and joy,” she added.

“It is particularly good for people with stressful life — be it a mother, a busy executive or a patient suffering from high blood pressure or just simply someone who wants to explore their creative ability,” she said.

South African couple Adriaan du Plessis and wife Mariann are among the students who have been attending Abu Dhabi Poetry’s classes for the past one year, with both of them speaking positively on their experiences.

“My wife and I wanted to do something different so we said why not try making pottery? We found out about Abu Dhabi Pottery and have been going for one year now. It’s been an excellent experience for the two of us, which is why we have kept going back, it really feels nice when you can create something yourself,” said Adriaan.

“When I first started out, it was harder than I thought it was going to be, but over time I started getting better. A few weeks ago, I managed to make two very big pots using over 24 kilos of clay. I never thought I’d ever be able to make something like that before,” he added.

Pride of creating

Mariann said she has started using the pots she has made in the class at home, replacing the items she had bought.

“I’ve thrown away things and replaced them with my own pottery. I would usually buy things to put my make-up products in, but I now put them inside the pots that I have made.

“I do feel a sense of pride when I see my own pottery because I made it all by myself with my own hands, and so it makes you feel good about it,” she added.

Mariann also said the sessions are a good way for her to relieve any stress she has.

“It’s definitely relaxing for me and very stress free. When you enter the class, you leave all your worries outside and you simply concentrate your entire mind on doing something creative with your hands.”

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