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Marian Heintz, left, helps Emily Noggle with a pot at Marian Heintz Pottery Studio on Brainerd Road.
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Teapot by Marian Heintz

If You Go

* What: Grand Opening & Open House.

* When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

* Where: Marian Heintz Pottery Studio, 3240 Brainerd Road.

* Admission: Free.

* Phone: 504-3238.

Marian Heintz learned a lot about throwing clay, mixing up the right formulas for glazes and firing the pieces in kilns from Talle Johnson. When the Flintstone, Ga., master potter died in 2010, Heintz rallied some of the other apprentices that Johnson worked with and kept the studio operating for awhile.

But several months ago, she decided it was time to strike out on her own and she started putting together the Marian Heintz Pottery Studio on Brainerd Road near the Missionary Ridge tunnels. The 3,000-square-foot space formerly housed a pharmacy and later the Picker's Exchange.

She will host a grand opening and open house on Saturday in the studio, which contains much of the equipment from Johnson's.

"We will have food, of course, because we like to eat, but we will have some clay wedges out and people can come in and give it a try and they can see what we are all about," she says.

Like Heintz herself, the studio is a work in progress, she says. She has spent several weeks cleaning up the space, painting and building work and display areas. Her ultimate goal is have a studio with a sense of community where people can leave the outside world behind and make art.

Right now, the space features a display area for some retail sales of Heintz' own work, a lab where she keeps and mixes the ingredients for the glazes she makes, an electric kiln, work stations and plenty of shelving for the clay pieces in their various stages of progress.

There are also six "throwing" stations -- where clay is turned on a wheel -- for the classes she teaches and a place by the big picture window that she calls the "transitional space." It features comfortable chairs and a few end tables, and she sees it as a spot where the adults who take her evening classes can come in with their dinner and/or a bottle of wine and "transition between work and throwing clay."

"This whole studio is a place to come in and leave everything else behind."

Heintz currently has 15 students and says she plans to have kids classes in the summer, as well as classes for a parent and child to take together.

Valerie Carter, 54, is an registered nurse and has been taking lessons from Heintz for about 18 months. For her, pottery is a chance to do something she loved as a child but with a payoff.

"Pottery is one of those mediums you can get in and play with and not worry about making mistakes," she says. "When we were kids we liked to play in the mud, right? So as an adult to be able to play in mud is liberating, and at the end of the process you do have a product.

"For me, it's letting go and letting the clay take you."

Carter says she has taken lessons previously in another town from a different teacher, and she appreciates that Heintz focuses on teaching the basics and the fundamentals.

"She's very artistic and creative but also very grounded."

Heintz says her time spent with Johnson taught her a great deal about the craft, things that she feels confident about when passing them on to others. She is still a student herself when it comes to creating original pieces, however.

"I worked with a master potter, and I learned all of the skills. If I were a writer, say, I would have a huge vocabulary, but I have never written anything great."

Exactly how the studio space is used and by whom will evolve over time, Heintz says. Whether she is teaching a class or working on her own pieces or simply opening the space up to other potters, Heintz does have an ultimate goal.

"It's about building community," she says. "I see this as soul care."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at or at 423-757-6354.