Terry Castor had a massive and creative idea for a ceramics project.

Goodrich resident Terry Castor has been asked a common question as he’s worked on a pot in his Flint Institute of Arts pottery class that is taller than a human: “What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know, that’s the common question – where are you gonna put it?,” Castor says. “So many things can go wrong in a project this big, so I kind of just focus on the next task to get it done, but I guess I envision it in my house or on the porch or something.”

Castor has been taking pottery courses at the FIA for more than 13 years. During that time, he’s been able to deepen his skillset in pottery and continuously challenge himself with new projects.

“Because of the format here, where you can pursue your own interests, I’ve just focused on new challenges,” he says. “You can keep pursuing something bigger or something different, so that’s how it has progressed and I’ve learned new techniques here.”

Castor didn’t start taking pottery classes until he was 40, but he’s always had an interest in it. Growing up, his close friend’s brother did pottery and had a kick wheel in the basement. Although he was intrigued, Castor says they didn’t have any courses available. He re-found the hobby when he took a community education course and the instructor suggested he check out the FIA.

“I started taking classes here then and I’ve been here ever since,” Castor says. “It’s really a treasure for the community here.”

Castor & FIA instructor Guy Adamec prepare the project to load
into the kiln.

Guy Adamec, who has been an FIA Art School faculty member for more than 40 years, tries to create an environment where students aren’t intimidated to try ambitious and creative projects like Castor’s giant pot. 

“There are professional-level students here, and we have a facility where we can challenge them to do just about anything they want with clay here,” Adamec says. “When they run into a problem, we can talk it over, come up with solutions, and help with technique. If you come in here with an idea, my job is to help you turn it into something that works.”

The FIA’s collection also played a role in inspiring Castor. He saw an 11-foot tall sculpture by Viola Frey on display in the FIA’s Chan Family Gallery that helped his imagination run wild.

“It just kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I could make pieces that are bigger than what is typical,” Castor says.

To create his pot, he brought a large piece of plywood in, laid it out on tables in the pottery room and, he says, used “a shipwrights method” that involved setting up a curve using a thin piece of wood with small nails set in it.

“It (the pot) actually has a nice, classical pottery profile,” Castor says. “I cut them into three sections and used them as templates when I threw it.”

It took several people to carefully move Castor's pot into the FIA's kiln.

The environment in FIA classes, where students from all different backgrounds work on projects, creates a dynamic atmosphere that is conducive to creativity. 

“Terry’s made some interesting pieces, and we have a lot of students who do beautiful work that fits their personality,” Adamec says. “A lot of it is for functional, usable objects, but I also fire things and have no idea what they are – clay can be abstract, just like painting or sculpture.”

Castor appreciates being able to collaborate with and seek inspiration from other students in the class as well. 

“All your life worries go away when you’re focused and creating and you’re seeing other people create different, amazing things,” Castor says. “This medium, you’re only bounded by your imagination, so that’s what’s cool about being in a group like this, you can see other people doing things you never thought of and didn’t know was possible. That’s what I hope I’m doing with this, is helping others say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could make a pot that big.’”

For more information about Terry Castor’s work, visit his Etsy shop.