Lia Lynn Rosen’s new community-based clay studio in Rosendale, A Potter on Main Street, is a place where people can learn to make their own functional pottery. Rosen is offering group classes for all ages and individual tutorials by appointment. The idea is to provide a space and instruction for those who love to work with their hands and in communion with like-minded souls; a bit of a refuge, if you will, from the digital revolution.
“The digital has really affected people, in that they’re not able to just be with themselves and focus anymore,” says Rosen. “And that is something I feel really strongly about; that people need to be in the present and work on something they care about, that they love, and with others, in real time. Not on YouTube; here, with your material, with me helping you. And if I lose the game on that, ‘oh well,’ but I’ll at least have tried.”
Rosen is a relatively recent resident of the Hudson Valley, having moved here with her partner in December of 2017 from New Mexico, where she worked as a potter and taught art to children in public school, grades K-12, for 30 years. Born in Oakland, California, her childhood years were spent in Wisconsin and Minnesota, with enrollment in Teachers College at Columbia University eventually taking her to New York City.
Prior to that, while still in high school, Rosen discovered her passion for pottery through a disciplined apprenticeship program she attended over several summers, set up on the European model of master apprenticeship, she explains. “I was really grabbed by it, and became a potter right away. And I still believe in the power of art; if you get really drawn into something, it gives you a purpose and a focus.”
Rosen moved to New Mexico in her late 20s, earning a BA in Southwestern art history and later studying ancient Pueblo pottery at the University of New Mexico. In the years that followed, living in the region between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Rosen found that while Santa Fe has a reputation as an artists’ mecca, the reality of life there is that poverty is prevalent.
Teaching in New Mexico — one of the country’s poorest states, she points out — was not unlike being in the Peace Corps. “We were bringing things to the students that they would not have been able to have otherwise.” Rosen worked in the prison system, as well. “I did everything I could do. For me, it was about social change through the arts, but you can’t be that effective in a system that’s pretty dysfunctional.”
Her decision to come East was based on the desire for more political and social connections. “New Mexico is really historic, and the land and the sky is great. And it’s not like there aren’t people, but you don’t go there for the people. Here, it’s a people-place, it’s more social. And we also have a beautiful environment here.”
Rosen says she likes New York City but knew she didn’t want to live there again. “I’m pretty nature-oriented; seeing the land and the sky is important to me. Why else would I stay in New Mexico so long?” She and her partner looked at places along the east side of the Hudson River, including Beacon and Poughkeepsie, but nothing resonated with them until they found Rosendale through a serendipitous meeting with a couple from Kingston they met at a B&B in Oaxaca, Mexico. “We went to Main Street one day, and just thought, ‘This seems right.’”
Rosen was already aware of the Women’s Studio Workshop nearby, and initially thought she might work on her own pottery there. “I wasn’t thinking of looking for a shop, then; when I came here I had sold my wheel and my kiln, and I didn’t know where I was going.” But when the space at 430 Main Street became available to rent, Rosen decided to make the leap and open her own studio.
Housed in a building with an exterior freshly painted a striking blue with green trim, A Potter on Main Street joins a community of small businesses and restaurants that Rosen says have all been welcoming to her. The front room, lit by natural light from the storefront windows, is where the classes are being held. Additional rooms hold a new kiln and pottery wheel for throwing, and a backyard garden and patio area has potential for future use.
Noting the resemblance of her given name to the town in which she now resides and works, Rosen says that was coincidental. She’s pleased to have found a new home there, noting that Rosendale is a place where people live “by choice” in order to have a slower lifestyle and “more time to be real,” a prospect that suits her fine. After 45 years of making pottery, she says, “This is the very first time in my life I have my own shop. It’s great! I’m at the very beginning of something, in that sense.”
Her classes and tutorials will evolve over time as demand dictates, of course, but for now there is a Wednesday evening group for women from 7-9 p.m., with the focus on hand-building pots with pinch, coil or slab methods and decorating them with burnishing and painted designs. The working space is designed to host up to eight students comfortably.
On Sundays, A Potter on Main Street offers classes for adults and kids (age eight and up) to work together on functional pieces, exploring various glazes and nature-derived textures. A four-class card for adults costs $100, but Rosen says that people can pay by the class at $25 per, without committing to the card. There is also a parent/child(ren) class card for $125. Card fees include materials and firing. Preregistration is not required.
Custom classes are also available for small groups of five or more at a cost of $20 per person for a 1.5-hour class.
The studio space may serve in future as gallery space to host exhibitions of pottery, and Rosen says she has ideas about summer workshops that may be offered. She also plans to start working on her own pottery again. “I made pretty specialized work in New Mexico, influenced by the region and all sorts of painted traditions, but here I want to do more straight-ahead functional pottery. I admire contemporary art, but I’m not out there on the cutting edge of contemporary abstract pottery; I work more historically and I try to teach from that, as well.”
A Potter on Main Street is located at 430 Main Street in Rosendale. For more information, stop in Tuesday through Sunday, call (845) 658-2136, contact LiaRosen@earthlink.net or visit https://apotteronmainstreet.com/.