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Want to calm the mind and stoke your creative spirit by making ceramics, but the thought of approaching a pottery wheel scares you? Pottery NYC, a new 9th Avenue drop-in studio is here to guide your hands — with the help and expertise of experienced artist Peter Ramirez.
The studio is meant for those who’d like to try the art form on a one-off basis, said Ramirez, who found a gap in the market locally for beginner-friendly pottery classes or a spontaneous date night activity. “I did some market research, and found that there was a need for one-time and experience-based classes and workshops, especially on the weekends,” he said, explaining the difference between his shop and the long-term class focus at nearby studio Mud Matters. “If you want just to spin the wheel and see what it’s like before committing, you can do it.”
In addition to weekly workshops ranging from basic bowl and mug-making, Japanese multicolor Neriage technique and ceramic, gold and silver dipped jewelry-making, private classes and workshops are available to book upon request, all taught by Ramirez, a longtime potter and creative who made his way into the Hell’s Kitchen community as a dancer at popular LGBTQIA+ bar Hush.
“I was already in the area four days a week, when I saw that there was a restaurant space open,” said Ramirez. The shuttered Coddiwomple sandwich shop, which opened and closed down within less than a year, looked like the perfect place for a pottery studio — something that Ramirez had always wanted to do.
Applying for the space this summer, he assumed the project was a lost cause after not hearing back for months. “I knew there were two other businesses, a smoke shop and a wine shop, who were interested in the space, so I thought ‘Ok, it must be rented,’” he said. But when the landlords reached out in September, he jumped at the chance to move forward.
“It all came together in a month, which is amazing,” said Ramirez. The space had sufficient electrical infrastructure to support multiple wheels and kilns and was ready for move-in with zero construction and a fresh coat of paint. “I’m lucky — the space was already perfect for me,” he added.
In another lucky entrepreneurial break, Ramirez was contacted by workshop-booking platform ClassBento with an offer to handle the backend scheduling system. “They told me there’s this huge demand for pottery classes in New York, and that their system would be able to run my bookings,” said Ramirez. “It’s great, because starting a new business and drumming up customers is a challenge.”
One aspect of the studio that Ramirez is easily ready to conquer are the intricacies of teaching pottery. An artist for over 20 years, he first sat down at the wheel after a high school photography class proved too expensive. “I took ceramics instead, and stayed with it,” he said.
Growing up in Virginia after his family relocated from the Dominican Republic, Ramirez frequently visited family in New York before moving to the city in 2004 to pursue a creative life. “I moved here to be an artist, like a lot of people do,” he said. “I didn’t exactly become an artist in the way I thought I would, but I do love New York — it’s a great place to be.”
For Ramirez, the city was also a great place to engage creatively with other artists through multiple venues, including the LGBTQIA+ community at bars like Hush, where he’s worked since the venue opened. Balancing his job as a dancer and the fits and starts of opening Pottery NYC, Ramirez told W42ST that he was proud to showcase all of his endeavors.
“Someone on Instagram reached out to me that they were concerned that people shouldn’t see that I’m in nightlife, that it could be bad for business,” said Ramirez. “But I said, ‘If you can’t do both in New York, I don’t know where you can!’
“I feel like when we start to hide those things — especially if you’re queer in New York — it gives into the bigoted crap that’s happening everywhere else in the country,” he added. “I try to be loud and proud about it instead.”
In response, the Hush community has already passionately shown up to support his new venture, attending the soft opening with flowers and champagne in tow. “The community has been amazing,” Ramirez told W42ST. “It’s been super heartwarming to see how everyone has come out — I love our gang of misfits.”
In addition to the Hush crowd, Pottery NYC has already seen interest from other local potters as well as tourist walk-ins, said Ramirez. “There have been a lot tourists — we recently had a few clients from Iceland who realized that they’d be gone for the week-after product pick up, but I think someone is going to come back and get their pieces,” he added. For short-term stays, each class offers a one week turnaround on glazed final products — “ I think that’s the fastest turnaround in the city — we guarantee your piece back in a week,” he said.
Looking ahead, Ramirez is considering expanding the class offerings to include long-term high-level classes for veteran potters as well as specialized technique workshops. Ramirez plans to potentially offer horse hair pottery, a Native American technique in which artists adorn ceramics with horse hair and feathers to etch a design into the surface of the piece, as well as the Japanese styles of Netsuke (carving miniature Zodiac sign figurines) and Nerikomi (stacking and layering clay for aesthetic effect).
“The wheel is in demand and that’s cool,” said Ramirez. “But I think we’ll rotate in other workshops to keep things fresh!”
You can stop by Pottery NYC, located at 786 9th Avenue between W52nd and W53rd Street Monday through Thursday from 11am-7pm and the studio is currently open for additional class times Thursday through Sunday on a one-off basis.