Handmade: Eastside Mud Slingers stick together like family
"One big happy family" — that's how Michelle Dinwiddie Segue of Detroit described the relationship among pottery enthusiasts at Pewabic Pottery, where she hasn't missed a session since she started taking lessons in 2015.
She and four other pottery students joined together last summer to form a group, calling themselves the Eastside Mud Slingers. The other members include Rosi Triano of Grosse Pointe Farms, Joan Smykowski, Livonia, and Harry Swanson and Aislinn Scofield, both of Detroit. While a couple have their own kilns at home, they, along with the other members, also fire pieces of their work at Pewabic.
"We were all taking adult classes, and that's how we met," said Dinwiddie Segue. "We all come from kind of different backgrounds. I met them in 2015, but some knew each other before, so we all met at different times."
Members convene about every three months at one of their homes. And, in addition to seeing each other during the week at open studio sessions at Pewabic Pottery (10125 E. Jefferson) in Detroit, they've been getting together weekly since last summer for the Sunday Market at Eastern Market, which is held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (June through September).
"Aislinn found out about being a vendor at Eastern Market on Sundays and said, 'Why don't we get together and do this?'" recalled Dinwiddie Segue. "All five of us are required to come and set up, and then we have two people work per shift." Each potter brings a collection of their work to showcase for sale at the well-attended outdoor market.
Dinwiddie Segue's love for creating pottery resulted from a shopping trip with her mother, Thelma Dinwiddie of Detroit, whom she described as an "avid shopper." She said, "We passed Pewabic a couple times and she wondered if they had jewelry in there. I went in with her and she bought jewelry, but when we were checking out, she said, 'I wonder if they have classes here? I signed up for a class and I've never missed a session. They have four sessions (eight weeks with one class per week) a year.
"When I was a student at College For Creative Studies, I had a class in hand building with clay, but I was repelled by it. But once I started at Pewabic, the community and staff were wonderful! People come there after work to release." That warm atmosphere played a big role in helping Dinwiddie Segue stick with the art of throwing clay.
She uses her skills to create mostly decorative items, including bowls, vases and African silhouettes. "They can also be functional, and I really try to incorporate my graphic design knowledge when I'm thinking of the surface designs. I've been told they sometimes take on almost an industrial design quality, which comes from my graphic design training." With a "background in advertising and graphics," Dinwiddie Segue is a former graphic designer for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
Members of the Eastside Mud Slingers have each had their work exhibited for sale at Pewabic. However, Dinwiddie Segue, whose work starts around $15, also holds private sales in her home, and has had an unveiling with a live chat on Facebook. She recently sold a framed custom piece for $625.
I asked member Triano, who teaches at College for Creative Studies, what she enjoys most about being a "Mudslinger" and her response was, "I love the community aspect of working with the potters. We share ideas, help each other out, and challenge each other. I'm a retired art teacher and I took classes at Pewabic in the '70s. Then in June of 2013, I retired from full-time teaching and went back to Pewabic. All of us were at open studio, and that's when we got the brainstorm to sell at the Eastern Market."
Because of the strong familylike bond they share, Eastside Mud Slingers may soon start to grow in numbers since others at Pewabic have expressed an interest in joining.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Eastside Mud Slingers at (313) 550-0250 or on Facebook.