Thursday, November 11, 2010

Program profile: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild

Program profile:  Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG)
by Terry Rorison

MCG was started over 30 years ago by Bill Strickland, a potter and visionary who is still the Executive Director of the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation.  (Note:  For purposes of disclosure, the author was an early board member and employee of MCG in the early years.)   

Bill grew up in Pittsburgh's Northside and, as a high school student, was influenced by the late Frank Ross, who taught art at the local high school and later at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

After finishing an undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, Bill, with the help of others, established the Guild and occupied a house as a pottery studio in Pittsburgh's Mexican War Street neighborhood. A non-profit was established and, through grants from foundations, classes for children and adults were held.  Over time, the Guild moved to its present facility.  Bill and the Guild's story is remarkable, and Bill tells his story himself better than I do.  

See the YouTube video link below:
Today the ceramics studio is housed in a state of the art facility that primarily serves a population of inner-city, school age children.  The facility also contains a photography studio, design arts and digital arts studios, a gallery, and a superb 300 seat performing arts theater.  Since this is a blog aimed at potters, I will focus on the ceramics studio.

The ceramics studio is equipped with a slab roller, 16 potter’s wheels, a myriad of hand-building tools, 3 electric kilns and 4 gas kilns including raku.

My tour was led by Amanda Wolf, who is a ceramics instructor at the Guild.  Amanda graduated from IUP with a BFA and is a producing potter active in shows and galleries in the area. See her blog and the her new website. 

Amanda Wolf

The Guild runs an after school pottery program for the city's high school students with a different group coming each day from Monday through Friday.  There is a nice mix of arts oriented students and those students whose main benefit comes from student success and building self esteem.  There are also other classes including an adult evening class attended mostly by teachers who receive credit for continuing education.

Student Work
More student work.

 Student work in glaze area.

 Wheel throwing area.

Clay  mixing area with Soldner mixer.  They buy a dry stoneware mix from Standard Ceramic.

Venco Pugmill.

Glaze area.

 The Guild has 3 large electric kilns, used mostly for bisque.

 They have two Alpine updraft kilns of 30 and 60 cu ft.  Most work is glaze fired here at Cone 10 reduction.

 New Advancer, nitride-bonded silicon carbide kiln shelves that are only 5/16" thick.

70 cu ft soda kiln in shed outside.

Another view of soda kiln.

Raku kiln.

Visiting artist's work.  The Guild sponsors talented ceramic artists to conduct workshops.

Gallery.  The Guild also has a large gallery where it conducts exhibits of both student and instructor work and also work for other ceramic artists.

More gallery.

Until recently, Josh Green was the VP of Operations for the last 25 years.  Josh just recently accepted the position as the Executive Director of NCECA.

Dave Deily will take over many of Josh's duties at the Guild, so he will be very busy.

Manchester Craftsmens Guild is a unique facility that focuses on ceramics training for inner-city youth.  The pottery studio is only one aspect that makes up the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation.  I encourage those who are not familiar to explore it through a visit to their website or facility, attendance at a concert, or see an exhibit at the gallery.  It is truly remarkable and Bill is on a mission to see it replicated in a 100 cities across the planet.

Manchester-Bidwell Corporation link:

Drew Mattieson Center for Horticulture Technology Training:

Manchester Jazz (winner of 4 Grammies):

 National Center for Arts and Technology:

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh! As you can see form the pictures, it is a beautiful facility!