Throwing mud in Old Town

Blessings can sometimes be hidden by what appears to be a problem.  Such was the case for Eileen Hudak whose job as a web developer was outsourced.  The hidden blessing was that she now had an opportunity to dream, to create the kind of job or position that would be fulfilling in a new way.  Her husband, Mark Hudak, a potter with 27 years’ experience behind him, was ready to embrace the dream, too.  After careful consideration and some physical work, this North End husband and wife team opened shop last March in Old Town as the Throwing Mud Gallery. The name of their enterprise embraces all aspects of their business, which has a fine crafts gallery in its street front, a middle room with potters’ wheels, and a back room with a cone 6 kiln.

There are 50 artists whose work is shown in the storefront gallery. Eileen has done a remarkable job of arranging all the work so that there is not a crowded sense, having so much to show in a relatively small space.  Often the work of one artist delightfully shows off the work of another in a mutually beneficial way.  Some people are happy to learn that there is quite a range of prices, so that it is possible to own original work.

Pottery classes are taught in the middle room where, Mark says, “We teach basics; we are not a college course, for example, so we don’t teach raku or sculpture.”  Included in the basics is a 25-pound block of clay that the student can use on the wheel or for hand-built items.

In the process of creating, firing and glazing, students learn about the properties of their medium, the characteristics of their clay and the glazes they can use.  For example, the glazes are locally formulated to meet the characteristics of the clay and the kiln.  Sometimes the lesson that must be learned is to not slather on a thick coat of glaze, for the glaze and the clay will be drying at different speeds, creating an unfortunate polka-dot effect.  By carefully heeding instruction, a student can produce a useful item that is pleasant to look at, will hold water, and is food service safe to use.  During September these factors came together as they created bowls for the annual Empty Bowls festival.

The classes are spread out over a six-week time span.  The hands-on instruction is for 2.5 hours per week and the student can schedule to work during open studio time for another 2.5 hours.  The cost of the classes includes all materials.  Students are asked to purchase a set of tools (usually costing around $18), which will become their personal items.

If you think you might be interested in a class, for $50 you can take a two-hour session on the wheel to see if that is something you’d like to do.   At present, the majority of students are women, (one of those random events), and the pleasant result of that is the sense of community that has evolved out of some of the classes.

In November, during Art at Work month, Mark will have a studio tour on Nov. 5 and 6.  At that time the gallery will be featuring those artists who live/work in Tacoma.  The Art Bus that usually runs for the Third Thursday Art Walk will be running for the studio tours so be sure to watch for information regarding schedules, etc.

Throwing Mud Gallery

Owners/Operators:  Mark and Eileen Hudak
Location:  2212 No. 30th, Tacoma
Phone: 253-254-7961

Class schedule:

Evenings:  6–8:30, M., Tues., Thurs.
Mornings:  10–12:30, Tues., Thurs., Sat.