CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Colorful pottery metaphors are hard to avoid when describing the clay artisans at Taylor Books Annex Gallery. The students mold truly great things out of simple clay in more ways than just on the potter's wheel.
Dozens of bowls, mugs, trivets and ornaments are created by a group of artists in a pottery class each week. From wheel to kiln, each piece is created by hand, and then donated to charitable organizations.
"We give it to them, and they sell it," explained Pam Goldfarb, the group's head cheerleader.
"We truly love Hospice and their outlook. For them, we make trivets, ornaments, bowls and cups. We asked them what they wanted us to make, and they asked that each piece be different, not from a mold, because everyone handles grief differently. So we cut every piece by hand."
The colorful trivets are modeled after the HospiceCare logo, a house with a heart in the center.
"For Manna Meal, we want to make 100 bowls for them to sell," Goldfarb said. The Southern Appalachian Labor School is the third charity currently receiving pottery -- mugs embellished with "SALS."
"We want to add the YWCA women's shelter too," Goldfarb said.
At ArtWalk each month, the class sells individually created pieces for modest sums -- nothing's sold for more than $20. The profits from the monthly venture are split in half: 50 percent goes to one of their favorite charities and 50 percent goes into supplies for the next round of creations.
Visitors descend the stairs from the back of Taylor Books into the intimate and cavelike basement studio. Whitewashed walls are lined with shelves, full of clay, half-finished pieces and tools. There's a section of shelves filled with wares awaiting the heat of the kiln or the magic of the glaze.
"It didn't look like this before. Pam donated all of those containers [holding glazes], and she named them all and put them in alphabetical order," Jayasree Mukkamala said. Each of the potters is quick to point out the talents of the others, and slow to take credit for their own generosity.
Students include Mukkamala, Goldfarb, Debra Levine, Betty Connaly, Lakshmi Gogineni, Bobby Hess and Tracy Matthews.
There are no artistic egos in this warm studio. The spirit in the room is peaceful, engaged, energetic. Jokes fly.
"Very few people think about 'Ghost,'" Goldfarb said with a laugh, referring to the steamy pottery scene in the romantic movie. The pottery class is stress-free, and all involved uses the word "therapeutic" when describing the atmosphere.
"We all collaborate," Goldfarb said.