GLADE SPRING, Va. — Children in the Glade Spring community are learning about art — and life — all from a ball of clay.

Susan Powers, the leader of youth clay classes at the Town Square Center for the Arts, said there’s a lot to learn when little hands shape clay into anything they want it to be.

A group of homeschooled kids, who call themselves “the clay ninjas,” have spent the past year making everything from pinch pots and serving trays to mugs and utensils.

The children also made colorful fairy houses that celebrate the return of the Passawats, mythical gnomes and fairies that, according to town folklore, used to live in the area.

The artwork by the Southwest Virginia Home School Community will be on exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday throughout June at the Town Square Center for the Arts.

In honor of the children’s artwork, the arts center will host a reception during its First Friday initiative.

A reception for the public is 5 to 7 p.m. on June 7, recognizing a kick-off of activities for the fifth annual Mountains of Music Homecoming, which runs through June 15 in Glade Spring and throughout the region.

Refreshments will be served during the open house, at which time visitors can talk to the children about their art. Some of the artwork will be for sale.

“To have a youth exhibition here at the arts center is rare. We usually focus on the work of guest or resident artists. This exhibition provides the opportunity to showcase what the youth in our community are capable of doing,” said Powers.

“For a lot of these kids, this is the first time they’ve ever made and exhibited their handmade items,” she said.

“It’s a great experience for my children to have this opportunity because not every town has a clay studio,” said Tracy Weaver, whose children, Daniel, 11, Matthew, 8, and Ava, 5, have developed a love for the craft since starting the classes in town.

“I think it’s fun to sell something I’ve made,” said Daniel, whose entrepreneurial spirit prompted him to sell a piece of his handmade pottery to his older sister.

“She gave me a dollar,” he said with a grin.

Powers, who has dabbled in pottery since the 1990s, said she teaches technique, but the creativity must come from the hearts of the children.

“Their job is to take that technique and use their own creativity to make something that includes their own personalities.

“It’s a creative process.

“From the time we’re little, we’re told when to get up, when to go to bed and what to eat. There’s something so liberating about shaping a ball of clay into anything you want it to become. It’s the most wonderful feeling of freedom.

“Just to see their minds and imaginations at work is a blessing,” said Powers.

“Art in general has taught me more problem-solving skills in life than anything else. I have a bachelor’s degree in science. You’d think that would be a more problem-solving arena than art. But art has taught me about architecture, how to build things and how to use math and science.”

Powers wants to get the word out that the community-oriented programs are accepting students from all walks of life and all ages.

The next clay class for youth begins July 10 and meets each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Powers is hoping to add a clay class for adults if she receives enough interest.

The instructor also plans to add an entrepreneurial element to the clay classes for youth by offering lessons on how the children can sell their work. “They will learn about engaging the community, person-to-person communication, exchanging money and saving what they earn, and how to run their own small business.”

In addition to claymaking, the Town Square Center for the Arts offers classes in quilting, painting, stained glass, embroidery and cross-stitch.

To learn more about class schedules, or if you would like to teach a class, call the Town Square Center for the Arts at 276-429-1276, or contact Susan Powers at

The following is a list of additional Mountains of Music Homecoming events scheduled for June 7 through June 15 in Glade Spring. For a complete list of events throughout the region, visit

» Project Fidget Blanket. June 8, noon, Glade Spring Library. Presented by Nancy Williams, this is an interactive workshop where blankets will be made and sent to nursing homes or centers with patients who are struggling with illnesses such as dementia, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Free event.

» Appalachian Mini Barn Quilt Painting. June 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Town Square Center for the Arts. Class members will choose and paint an authentic 6-by-6 quilt pottery piece in a design prevalent to the Appalachian region. Donations encouraged.

» Quilt Show. June 9-12,The Point/Farmers Market Pavilion. Quilts, both old and new, will be displayed, highlighting the creativity of the artists.

» Pinch and Coil Pottery Demo. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 11, Town Square Center for the Arts. All aspects of pinch and coil will be demonstrated. Donations encouraged.

» Children’s Art Exhibit. June 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Town Square Center for the Arts. Free event. Exhibit will continue throughout June, held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.

» Natural Fabric Dyeing Demo. June 13, 3 to 6 p.m., Lavelle Manufacturing in the town square.

» Glade Gigs, Get It in Glade Spring. June 13, 7 to 10 p.m. The Point/Farmers Market Pavilion. Enjoy a jam session and a community sing-along as well as a variety of local cuisine. Free event.

» Flint Knapping Demo. 10 a.m. to noon, June 15. Flint knapping demonstration by master craftsman Jack Payne will focus on transforming stone and glass into arrowheads and other traditional handmade tools.

» Bag Pipe Performance. June 15, 11:30 a.m. Town Square Center for the Arts.

» Nancy Johnson’s Colorful Folk Artwork. Noon, June 15, Glade Spring Library. Local folk artist and author Nancy Johnson will display some historical art and offer a few pieces of her own artwork for sale.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at

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