Judy Kawabata, left, Pat Harwood and Sidney Lynch, members of the Hawaii Potters Guild, find comfort in creating their ceramic pieces, and pleasure in giving them as gifts.

Ceramic pieces are
gifts from the heart

Many people find themselves stressed out and overspending each holiday season, while others appear to be the picture of calm. What's their secret?

Ceramics classes

From Oct. 4 through Dec. 6

Wheel-throwing: 7 to 10 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays

Hand-building: 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Place: Hawaii Potters Guild's Studio, 2480 Bingham St.

Cost: $135, includes use of studio. Clay must be purchased at the guild.

Call: Shelle at 988-2418

For many, planning ahead allows them to make personalized gifts for the holidays. Handmade Christmas gifts can be a heartfelt alternative to the usual store-bought items, at a fraction of the cost.

Getting a head start is a must. For those who don't feel they have skills to make something presentable, there are craft classes all around town. For those with something more arty in mind, the Hawaii Potters Guild will begin hosting a 10-week series of ceramics classes at its newly renovated facilities on Oct. 4. And believe it or not, students will be able to make about 18 pieces before Christmas rolls around, using 25 to 100 pounds of clay and techniques of wheel-throwing, hand-building and glazing.

Instructors are Sally Fletcher-Murchison Yukio Ozaki, Daven Hee and Esther Nowell. "Practice makes perfect" seems the mantra of the guild members, who explained that shaping the clay need not be difficult. Styrofoam meat trays can be used as molds to create plates and coasters. Plastic molds are sometimes used to shape a bowl.

"By the time a student actually finishes something, it becomes more precious ... with all the handling of the clay. The precious piece is a gift right in itself," said Pat Harwood.

"When you open the kiln, it's like Christmas all the time. We never know how things will come out," added Harwood, who frequents garage sales in search of lace and doilies, used to create texture in her pieces.

Judy Kawabata agreed, "It's always exciting ... and I've been doing this for 30 years."

Shelle Avecilla recalls, "After the movie 'Ghost' came out, people flocked to classes." That 1990 film included the romantic scene of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze at the ceramics wheel.

"I was in New York at the time and wanted to get back to clay," added Kazuyo Sato, who was unable to find a pottery class that was not full.

A small bowl was made by Sally Murchison, who is teaching a Potters Guild class.

THE STUDIO is open for students looking for more guidance or work time outside of class. "Most people learn by watching others," said Sidney Lynch, another member of the potters guild. People are always willing to assist, helping attach cup handles or doing demonstrations. About 13 students attend each class. "We don't want too many people because then the teacher can't help everyone," she added.

People usually get the hang of working with clay in their first couple of classes, said Lynch.

"People shouldn't be intimidated," she added. Projects don't need to be complicated. Making a necklace is as easy as rolling small balls or shaping square beads to string together.

Esther Nowell, who will teach the hand-building session, grew up attending classes at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. "I always loved anything to do with art and making things," she said.

She now enjoys combining hand-building and wheel techniques. "It's good to know both. ... You can make something that is nice and you won't be embarrassed to show someone."

Or give someone.

Shelle Avecilla, left, works on a clay piece.


Key Dates

Yessireebub, you're gonna need a list that you'll have to check twice (or more) to keep you on track to avoid another round of holiday insanity, so here's one to get you started.

Luckily, the holidays fall nicely on weekends this year, giving you some extra time to get your act together if you've run out of vacation days. Halloween falls on a Sunday, Christmas Day and New Year's Day on Saturdays, so a majority of people will have a three-day weekend to recover:


Today: Start formalizing gift plans and think about which stores you'll need to hit to find something for aunties and uncles, and which gifts you might try crafting yourself.

Sept. 13: Have you made your girls' night out or office Christmas dining reservations yet?

Sept. 20: The Star-Bulletin will start running a craft-fair listing to help plan your shopping.

Sept. 25: Start thinking about themes and costumes for Halloween parties. This year will be easier because All Hallows Eve falls on a Sunday, leaving both Friday and Saturday open for private parties. You think it's early? Savers started displaying Halloween costumes two weeks ago, and there's been a nonstop run on costumes. It's the same story at Party City in Waikele, where one clerk wondered why people wait until the last minute when costumes are available there year-round. Hint: Power Rangers and Spider-Man costumes are early hits with boys; princess or Barbie costumes are perennial favorites with little girls. Adults still want to be pirates.


Oct. 8: Do you have your costume yet? Wait too long and popular costumes will be gone, but that could be a blessing, because who wants to be the 1,001th Spider-Man?

Oct. 9: The malls are not yet crowded. Shop for a couple of outfits that will get you through the most formal of holiday soirees. Hint: Fur, sequins, gold, animal prints, vintage pins and opulence are back in style.

Oct. 25: The post offices are not yet crowded. Shop for holiday stamps that usually debut in late October for addressing your greeting cards. These days, you can also shop for Stamps by Phone by calling 800-STAMP24. Or go to www.stamps.com and create a personalized special-occasion stamp, if you can justify spending $1 per stamp instead of the usual 37 cents.

Esther Nowell tests a clay whistle she just made. Nowell, who will teach classes in hand-building ceramic pieces, says she has been working in clay since childhood.


Nov. 1: Get that favorite family photo made into a greeting card. Start addressing now to avoid the last-minute crunch, although you don't have to drop them in the mailbox until the first week of December. If you're waiting for that annual Santa shot, he usually starts sitting for mall portraits the week of Thanksgiving.

Nov. 13: Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Maybe it's time to visit a salon and get your hair done for the coming spate of parties.

Nov. 21: About that T-Day turkey -- you'll need to bring it home from the supermarket by today, and it should be comfortably defrosting in the refrigerator by tomorrow if you want it on the table on the 25th.

Nov. 26: The Christmas rush starts the day after Thanksgiving. The truly organized say if you've waited this long you're doomed, but this is the day of the big toy sales. Set your alarm for 4 a.m. Stores such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kaybee and Toys R Us open at 5 or 6 a.m., and popular items sell fast. Die-hards will be waiting in line overnight to beat you to the sales.


Dec. 3: Get those international gifts in the mail this week and U.S. priority mail by the third week of the month. The chronically tardy have until the 21st to get gifts out by express mail, but you'll have to brave the lines. How jolly.

Dec. 5: Don't be a martyr by trying to do everything yourself. Hired hands at the malls and boutiques will do your wrapping for you while you take time to sip tea and chill. Delegate the busy work.

Dec. 6: You can't buy your Christmas or New Year sashimi early, but you can place your order to ensure you'll have your share -- cost unknown. The folks at Tamashiro Market say this is a good time to start making those calls.

Dec. 13: This day is designated for gathering pine branches for your New Year kadomatsu, or lucky "gate pines." Outlets begin offering them around Dec. 20. You should have it in your home by Dec. 29. By the 31st it's too late.

Dec. 24: Still at the mall? Some people never learn.


Jan. 1: You made it through another year. Resolutions be damned. You deserve to be bad for a few days to revel in do-nothing splendor. Treat yourself to a movie or art gallery visit and lunch with a friend. You deserve it. Pretty soon it will be tax season, but for now, tomorrow's just another day.

Compiled by Nadine Kam and Nancy Arcayna

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