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Getting creative with clay: local potter shares her craft with students of all ages

  • Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer

“One cool thing about clay is that even if you think you’re not creative, you usually can make something,” said Melanie Kanz, the owner of Shoot the Moon, a Woodinville-based pottery studio. “People surprise themselves with that they’re able to do.”

Kanz makes and sells her own pottery and also teaches wheel throwing and handbuilding classes to adults and kids.

“I love sharing that experience with other people,” she said. “People come up with things that I would never think of.”

kids classKanz also teaches classes for kids in which students make mugs, pitchers, and other items (Photo by Melanie Kanz)If you aren’t already a potter, clay is sometimes a difficult medium to try out. The equipment required can be extensive and costly. You might need a pottery wheel and you definitely need a kiln. With a class like Kanz’s, students can gain access to both without having to drop a couple thousand dollars.

Aside from her at-home classes, Kanz also teaches an afterschool workshop at Bear Creek Elementary School sponsored by the school’s PTA.
There, she teaches handbuilding skills to kindergarteners through third graders.

“I think with the way the curriculum has changed, art and creativity experiences are just so much more limited,” Kanz said. “It gives kids a chance to be creative.”
There’s a permanence to the things kids make in a clay workshop, Kanz said. Clay items like mugs stand the test of time better than drawings or paintings.

“I’m sitting at my desk right now and I’m looking at a mug my daughter made my husband for father’s day when she was six, and a little bowl my son made for me when he was four,” said Kanz. “Those are treasured objects.”

In Kanz’s handbuilding classes at her studio, her students make functional items like mugs and also decorative pieces like yard art.

“I did a birthday party for someone who was turning 70 and we did yard totems, bird baths, turtles,” Kanz said. “For kids we do other types of things like snowmen, tiles for the wall, or mugs.”

untitledMelanie Kanz, owner of Shoot the Moon, in her Woodinville pottery studio (Photo courtesy of Melanie Kanz)Kanz first took up pottery to keep her sanity after having three kids in less than three years. “It was kind of my outlet,” she said.

She originally learned the craft in the 1990s by taking continuing education courses at Bellevue Community College. “I loved it. I would go do that every Tuesday night or so,” she said.
Later, when she and her husband moved to Sacramento and had kids, she found a local potter in the area and started taking classes at her studio.

“That’s where things really took off for me,” Kanz said.

The family moved back to the Woodinville area about 10 years ago, and Kanz has been making pottery and teaching her own classes ever since.

“I find it really relaxing. There’s something about the tactile feel of the clay,” she said. “I like being able to take something that starts off really raw and turn it into something else.”
The name of Kanz’s studio, Shoot the Moon, is inspired by her father. 

“My dad was really big into playing cards growing up. He loved the game of hearts,” she said. “When you shoot the moon in hearts, you take a risk. You go for it.”

adult class wwStudents paint decorative clay pieces they made in one of Kanz’s workshops (Photo by Melanie Kanz)Check out Kanz’s work to purchase on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/ShootTheMoon and look for her upcoming fall and winter classes at facebook.com/Shoot-the-Moon-Studio-157677433570.

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