Traditional Pottery Workshop@ Institute for American Indian Studies Sept. 24. 25 & Oct. 1

Every culture has some form of pottery and has used clay for utilitarian and aesthetic purposes for centuries. The Eastern Woodland Indians have a long history of making pottery from natural clay dug from pond sides, riverbanks, and even ocean cliffs. On Saturday, September 24, Sunday, September 25, and Saturday, October 1 the Institute for American Indian Studies on 38 Curtis Road in Washington, Connecticut is holding a Traditional Pottery Workshop from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on each of the three days resulting in the creation of a clay vessel. Paul Wegner, Assistant Director of the Institute, and Griffin Kalin, IAIS Educator, and Traditional Skills Expert will guide participants through the construction and pit firing process of their vessel.

Pottery found by archeologists can tell us much about how people lived long ago. The decorations on pottery are expressions of culture and individualism, history, and about ties between people. It gives us a glimpse at how they cooked, what they ate, how they moved around, and what they left behind. By documenting and noting the changing shapes of vessels and designs archeologists are able to determine changes in diet and circumstances. A fascinating aspect of this workshop is learning about the different types of Native American pottery found throughout the country with examples from the Institute’s vast collections.

This is a three-day workshop because working with locally sourced clay requires time for the clay to be processed correctly. When making traditional Native American pottery there are no kilns and no wheels used in the process. During this workshop, participants will learn the traditional methods of pottery making starting with locally foraged clay that will be screened to remove rocks and other debris and then put into water to allow the clay to settle. After the clay is fully prepared, participants will add their own temper, which can be almost anything from a crushed shell, or sand, to crushed-fired pottery, or plant material. The clay is tempered to help pottery withstand the shock of rapid temperature changes and flames. A highlight of the program is making the vessel by using the coil method and learning how to treat the surface and decorate it. When the clay is ready, the vessels will be fired outside in a shallow pit. After firing, which can reach temperatures of up to 1500 degrees, the clay will be as hard as a rock. It is important to remember that the clay is fragile and that there is no guarantee that the vessels will remain intact during the firing process, which is part of the learning experience and fun.

This is an outdoor event so participants should dress for the weather and pack a lunch and some water. The cost of this intensive three-day workshop is $110 for non-members and $90 for members of the Institute. Pre-registration and pre-payment are required and refunds will not be given after September 24, without serious extenuating circumstances. For more information call us at 860-868-0518 or email us at To register for this workshop click here.

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