The Clay Studio: the center of ceramics in Philly

Mr. Jacob Raeder’s Ceramics studio on Wilson Hall’s ground floor – Pierce Laveran ’24

Since its founding, the city of Philadelphia has acted as a hub for many different occupations. In the world of ceramics, The Clay Studio, located in Philadelphia, is both a powerhouse and the capital of ceramic art in the area. 

Originating in 1974, The Clay Studio began as a way for artists fresh out of art school to have workspaces where they could experiment and work with ceramics at an affordable price. This soon evolved to a more community-based mentality that focused on engagement and education. 

Currently The Clay Studio acts as the center point for ceramics in the area. Resident artists provide classes for the community free of charge, and the studio hosts exhibitions where artists can display their work. 

“[The Clay Studio] started as an artist residency/studio space but then evolved to do ceramic classes and a lot of outreach programming, bringing clay programs to schools that don’t have them,” said Ms. Stephanie Kantor, 3D Art teacher and current resident of The Clay Studio. “It’s kind of a ceramic powerhouse that does a ton of advocacy for the ceramic arts.”

Some Haverford students have used The Clay Studio’s resources. 

“The Clay Studio works with my sister’s elementary school often,” said Fifth Former Amir Ibrahim, who lives in close proximity to the studio. “They bring clay and teachers to her school, and they encourage the kids’ creativity by teaching them how to mold plates, faces, and a few other things. Just from listening to my sister and seeing the art she brings home, I can tell how much she enjoys working with The Clay Studio for her projects. It’s definitely boosted her creativity and willingness to create some of her own things.”

Residencies in The Clay Studio are extremely competitive: out of about 90 applicants, only two were offered studio space in the most recent residency cycle. 

“The importance of The Clay Studio in the Northeast cannot be understated,” Ceramics teacher and former Clay Studio resident Mr. Jacob Raeder said. “A lot of times people find professional jobs and studios through The Clay Studio, as everybody in this area asks The Studio for recommendations for artists.”

“For me, it was the reason why I came to Philly in the first place.”

Mr. Jacob Raeder

On average, residencies are about five years long, giving artists fortunate enough to get studio space time to settle down in the Philadelphia area. 

“For me, it was the reason I came to Philly in the first place,” Mr. Raeder said. 

Artists that get residencies not only get free studio space to work on various projects but also teach classes to the community. The commitment is time-consuming. 

“My first two years at The Clay Studio I was not working [at Haverford], so I was working in my studio from 9-5,” said Ms. Kantor. “Now that I have been working here, a lot of time management is needed to balance my work here and at the studio.” 

The Clay Studio is flexible when it comes to their residents working. Residents have 24-hour access to the studios. 

“Because people are coming from all parts of the country and now internationally, there is recognition that to be a working artist means that you have a job outside of your practice,” said Mr. Raeder. “The residency is an incredible opportunity because of how free form it is and how it accommodates a lot of different styles and schedules of making.”

As many artists at The Studio are fresh out of art school and looking to jumpstart their careers, The Studio also acts as a place where they can congregate with others at similar points in their lives. 

“When I was there, there was a ‘professional club’ aspect to the residency,” Mr. Raeder said. “Even though your colleagues are not doing the exact same work as you, they are at the same time of their lives where they are building foundations.”

Recently, Mr. Raeder presented an exhibition with his artistic practice Better Lovers through The Clay Studio. Currently, Ms. Kantor is working towards an exhibition that will take place in July. The Clay Studio is located in Kensington and is easily accessible by the public. 

“There is this wealth of opportunity if people are interested in arts in general [in Philadelphia].”

Ms. Stephanie Kantor

“The same as Mural Arts, [The Clay Studio] has a lot of credibility,” Mr. Raeder said. “I wish that our students take advantage of the incredible opportunities that are really just 30 minutes away

Ms. Kantor agreed. 

“There is this wealth of opportunity if people are interested in arts in general [in Philadelphia],” Ms. Kantor said. “There are a ton of resources that seem distant, but once you visit, everyone is very friendly and just trying to share the love of art.”

Author: Ethan Lee '24

Ethan Lee is a Managing Editor for The Index, a position he took in May 2022. He has previously edited the News section of The Index. When not writing, Ethan can be found on the squash court or in a crew boat, or working on an art project.