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City grant builds up local ceramics studio

The Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge has boosted its ceramics program thanks to a $10,000 grant from the City Council.

March 25, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • Stephany Wong, on left, has been in the ceramics class only since January and she is getting instruction for ceramics director Miriam Balcazar in ceramics class in the Ceramics Room at the La Canada Flintridge Community Center on March 24. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Stephany Wong, on left, has been in the ceramics class…

Set at the very back of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge’s campus is a ceramics studio, a mini-Mecca for artists of all ages and skill levels. Some of the students have participated in the ceramics program there for just a few months, others for more than a decade.

Miriam Ellis, who signs her works “Mims,” discovered the studio 12 years ago when she enrolled her son in a children’s ceramics course. She quickly began to envy the fun her son was having creating works of art and started taking classes herself. Today she spends about eight hours a week in the Community Center’s studio.

“I live very close; I could practically walk here if I didn’t have to schlep all my stuff,” said Ellis, a La Cañada resident. “It’s great having this here. I didn’t know this existed until my son started taking a class here. It’s kind of tucked away.”

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The Community Center’s ceramics director for the past four years, Miriam Balcazar, hears that all of the time. La Cañada residents, she said, are constantly telling her they’d never heard about the ceramics studio until they randomly stumbled upon it.

Ellis had never experimented with ceramics before and the happenstance discovery of the program got her hooked.

“You know, once I stuck my hands in the clay I was just addicted to it,” she said.”I can’t get bored, there’s always something new to try or more to learn.”

The word is getting out about the program, Balcazar said. The studio underwent a year-long renovation, thanks to $10,000 in grants from the La Cañada Flintridge City Council. The new look has in turn brought more attention to the center’s ceramics program, she said.

The average ceramics class size has recently grown from five to 12 people, said Megan Nordvedt, the center’s executive director.

When Balcazar first heard she had $10,000 at her disposal, she didn’t quite believe it. After the initial shock she began mapping out how to spend it. The first purchase she made was an electric kiln, which has greatly sped up the time artists have to wait until they can see their finished product.

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