Mount Airy is known for its diversity, collaboration and sense of community. These qualities are personified in many of its businesses. Six Senses Collaborative Clay Studio, at 20 E. Mount Airy Ave., is a perfect example of community involvement. Just off Germantown Avenue is a small space where residents gather to work on crafts, create ceramic pieces by hand and hang out with owners Cornelia Kietzman and Shinobu Habauchi.
Kietzman and Habauchi opened the studio in October with the hopes of facilitating community activities. They met 10 years ago at a playground in Mount Airy. Kietzman said she feels rooted in the neighborhood and therefore wanted to open her studio here.
“Where we [worked at before] really didn’t fit for community interaction,” Kietzman said. “This spot here in Mount Airy is great for us when it comes to that. Being community oriented was a big part of us opening up our own place here.”
Both Kietzman and Habauchi also consider the studio a place where the community and residents can come together, relax and have fun in their free time. The studio has three local home-schooling groups and a preschool with biweekly classes. Local summer camp organizations plan to bring students for weekly activities and the studio is hosting an arts summer camp.
“It seems like we’re already starting to get more attention,” Habauchi said. “It’s established that there are kids’ classes. It’s just a place to hang out… it’s a place for people to get to know.”
The studio also holds adult classes and invites anyone to drop in for a single class. Members of the Northwest Clay Guild, established at Six Senses, have 24 hour access to the studio. The guild was behind the inspiration for opening the studio.
“We wanted a space that would work well for us as individuals but also knowing that we would be sharing it with others,” Kietzman explained.
The guild is comprised of a group of professional and semi-professional artists local to the area. They hold monthly critiques, workshops, technical skill sessions and showcase their work in quarterly gallery shows and community events.
“One of my favorite fundraisers that we participate in is the empty bowl benefit,” Kietzman said. The event is held every year at Arcadia University and Chestnut Hill College. “We donate handcrafted bowls and local restaurants donate soups and bread.”
Each person gives money to the cause and chooses a bowl to eat dinner in and take home after. “The empty bowl that’s left serves as a reminder of all the homeless living in our area,” Kietzman said.
“This year seemed like a perfect time [to open a studio],” Habauchi said. “Mount Airy is starting to become a bigger arts scene, people are accepting of art and hopefully we can continue to contribute.”
Each month the studio hosts a different local artist who shares their talents with participants.
Members of the community come to hear the artist speak about their work, watch them in action and try their hand at creating a piece of art.
April’s visiting artist was body-molder and visual artist, Gina Gruenberg. Gruenberg demonstrated how to form a cast of a pregnant model’s stomach and hands, and then allowed the audience to make molds of their own hands, feet and other body parts.
“I’m hoping with my work to help other people learn how to play and how to enjoy art more,” Gruenberg said. “My goal is to bring people together as a community to learn how to do art themselves, as opposed to me making lots of art and showing it and selling it.”
Although Gruenberg is a Mount Airy resident, she is just becoming an integral part of the neighborhood art scene. “I’ve gotten a lot of support as an artist here,” she said. “Especially from Cornelia and Shinobu, and it’s been really fun.”
“I love that we get to be a place that allows artists to show some of who they are and some of how they do their work,” Kietzman said of the Visiting Artist Series.
It’s not just the artists that are local, though. This summer, Kietzman and Habauchi have plans to bring their classes to nearby creeks to find clay. Placing an emphasis on local accessibility is really important to them.
“The thing that has been really fun for me with owning the studio is realizing that art is totally available to everybody,” Kietzman said. “That’s part of what we want to make happen here regardless of financial ability. We just want to make sure that people who want to do art can do it here.”