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Interview Fri Oct 22 2010

Learn Ceramics in Logan: An Interview with Penguin Foot Pottery

The joint effort of Chris Busse, 26, and Paige Bailey, 25, Penguin Foot Pottery wants to bring ceramic arts to Logan Square. Offering a variety of classes appropriate for all ages and skill levels, there's no shortage of experience on either side: Chris is a long-time ceramics artist and teacher, having worked in the Chicago Public Schools and Oak Park Park District. Currently a project manager at a Chicago-based media company, Paige handles the business and marketing end of the operation. Talking to them before their grand opening this Saturday, they explained the personal context behind their mission, plans for classes, and why they believe working with clay, wheel, and tile shouldn't be intimidating, but practical, beautiful, and fun.

Penguin Foot Pottery is located at 2514 W. Armitage (entrance on Bingham St.). You can pre-register for classes through their website.

How did you get into ceramics and pottery?

Chris Busse: I started in high school, and then I went to college for ceramics and art education at the School of the Art Institute. I've been doing ceramics, and teaching in Oak Park, and I did a residency at the Chicago Park District. I've been teaching art for the Chicago Public Schools' on the south side for the last three years.

Paige Bailey: He just got laid off -- one of the many Chicago Public School teachers.

Did getting laid off affect your decision to open the studio?

CB: I wanted to do this for awhile anyways. And they cut half of my position towards the end of last year, and then they cut the rest of it in August.

PB: But we were going to go ahead and do this...

CB: I was still going to go ahead and do this, when I had a half-time position there. But then, that fell through, so that kind of bumped this up.

What do you like about teaching?

CB: I think it's watching people learn things, it's interesting just see them, the a-ha moment, you know, watching them progress -- it encourages your own work. Even when I was teaching at CPS and not doing my own work, because I was busy, it was still encouraging to see kids progressing and learning stuff and affecting how your own work is done.


Why do you think it's important to be learn things like this? How does that play into your classes?

CB: I think creativity is the foundation of all learning, particularly growing up and associating things with other things. When I was teaching art, I'd try to bring in social studies, math, and all the different stuff. It's kind of a culmination of all knowledge, is really what art expresses. It's a good means of understanding the world around you and it just makes sense.

PB: And I think it's important to have a ceramics studio in a community like the Logan Square/Bucktown area, that doesn't really have anything like that to offer right now. It's just so important for kids to be able to explore the different kinds of arts out there. I feel like they need to be able to see what they like, and build up those motor skills. One of the classes that we are offering is a parent-child class. You get to come take a class with your kid, but each of you gets a wheel, so it's not like the kid has to be taught a certain way and can't always be touching everything.

CB: They're not hovering over the kid, nitpicking....parents are funny. It's better for them to make their own.

PB: There's not really any rules in ceramics class with Chris. If you come in with an idea, he's totally willing to help you figure out how to do it and make it happen...he's got projects every week that teach you the different techniques, so you can go on to develop your own stuff.


Can you talk more about the other classes you're going to offer?

CB: We've got parent-kid classes, after school classes for kids and teens. We offer throwing and hand-building. Throwing is with the pottery wheel. Hand building would be pretty much anything. It's kind of open. Sculpture and tile is one of the adult classes.

PB: So you could, you know, make a tile for the backsplash of your kitchen, which is what I'm going to do.

CB: You can do tiles, and each week I would go over a different technique, style, or something like that. And then I like to keep it kind of open, let people...formulate their own ideas. If you were like, I want to make a switchplate for my light switch, then I'd go and figure out how to do that.

PB: I think the class that we're most excited about is the Saturday night class. That's an adult class -- it's also just a walk-in class, you don't have to sign up for four classes in a row, you can just walk in that night. If there's a wheel available, sit down at the wheel, do whatever you want there. If not, there's plenty of other stuff to do besides the wheels.

CB: We'll also have paint your own stuff, pre-made. So you can come in, even like a date night, and paint your own and pick it up next week after I fire it.

PB: It's kind of something else to do in Chicago on weekend nights. You can learn something new and bring your friends, and I really like the idea of having a walk-in art class.

Ok -- how did you come up with the name? Penguins?

CB: For the last six years, I've been doing my work under that name. That was my website name, just as like a pseudo...not company name, but brand kind of thing.

PB: When I first asked him, 'what's with the penguins?', he goes 'I don't know. I mean, they get to slide around on their bellies and stuff.'

CB: They're just fun, and the name...I don't even know where I came up with the name. I guess, you call the base of the pot a foot, penguin foot...just had a good sound to it, seemed memorable enough for people to recognize it.


Chris and Paige

 
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Margie Voss / October 22, 2010 9:06 PM

Congrats! Paige - artistic like your mother .. and my best friend, your grandmother - Agnes .. this from Margie Voss who knows that your grandmother has SO MANY TALENTS .. I am sure she is proud of you both! Good Luck on your new endeavor!

Ryan @ Date Night Chicago / October 23, 2010 3:16 PM

Ceramics are a perfect date night event. Do you allow two people on the throwing wheel? :)

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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