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Island Pottery Studio Opens in Mineola

Former art teacher Linda Scarcella says emphasis is on creativity in her classes.

When you mention the word pottery to someone, chances are the imagery of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore will pop into your head. While Linda Scarcella prefers clay as her medium instead of Whoopi Goldberg, she has opened a new studio for residents to try their hands at making hand-made items out of clay, giving them a chance to express their creative side.

Island Pottery opened its doors September 15 with a grand opening on Willis Avenue and Scarcella says that classes are already filling up.

“I love an 8-week session but I told them they could come for four or six and sign-up for whatever’s comfortable because people’s schedules are insane,” she said, noting that she has “some holdovers,” as well as a new homeschool class and signups from students who are back in school after the summer.

Scarcella, a Roslyn resident, received her undergraduate degree in licensed art education and therapy at NYU and a masters of arts and liberal studies at Stony Brook.

“I’ve always been teaching art. I went from being art, art, art to getting a global view for my Masters,” she said. “I’m not sure if they still offer it at Stony Brook, but they did at the time. It was just more global and it pulled in all kinds of other things that feed the artwork.”

After 14 years teaching at elementary schools in Elmont, in Suffolk, a private school in Hewlett in Suffolk County and at United Cerebral Palsy, she stayed home to raise her two children - Terri, 17, and Lida, 14 – both of whom are adopted from China – and took classes at home.

“A friend of mine said ‘you’ve been taking classes for so long, why don’t you teach?’ so I started teaching hand-building,” which is shaping clay without the use of a wheel.

“A lot of stuff is made not on the wheel and it’s not a second cousin, it’s really quite legitimate,” said Scarcella, confessing she prefers the technique over using the wheel.

The impetus for opening the store was that a string of part-time jobs – such as bookkeeping for a restaurant that eventually closed – slowly started to close down.

“And I just said ‘well, what am I going to do now that I’m all grown-up?’ And so I wanted to teach but teaching jobs aren’t out there, so I said ‘why don’t I put together what I love?’ I love to teach, I’ve been successful at teaching and I love the pottery, I love to work in it, I like to teach it and that’s what this is about, first of all to get people to find out there’s another part of them other than what work demands of you and the scheduling and all this tight – you can loosen up and have some fun and be creative,” she said. “Creative means just sitting there and making something that wasn’t there before. You have this lump of clay and all of a sudden it’s a bowl, that’s creative; you made it. And that feeling is so good and that’s what this is about, finding that creativity.”

She chose the location on Willis Avenue because of the proximity to other communities like New Hyde Park, the Willistons and Albertson, saying that a “mix” of people could be found in Mineola.

“It felt right,” she said. “I drive through it all the time; I’m always checking out the stores. The area’s been so supportive, people come in because of what’s in the window. I had a woman come in the other day, she said ‘oh, these are wonderful, I can’t stay now but I have people who would love hand-made gifts!’ and then she ran out again. This hopefully will be the business that my family will have in the future.”

The studio will offer classes for children ages 7-12, teens, adults and seniors. Teens will have class on Sundays with their own special wheel class, while adult classes can learn both use of the wheel and handbuilding. The adult classes run four to 6 weeks, two-and-a-half hours a week and cost between $150 (4 weeks) to $300. The fees cover all the clay and glaze students can use, but there is an extra fee for firing your work in the kiln.

Scarcella said that beginners needn’t be intimidated by fear their bowls or pitchers might be lopsided at first. 

“Lopsided you can take of that over time, that’s practice,” she said. “It’s easy to make a bowl eventually; just round. But then you put more and more of yourself into it and that’s when it gets creative and that’s what I’m trying to encourage here – people to come in, whether they are potters or beginners – you want to come in and just play, that’s great.”

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