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Pottery studio spins off new community workshop

GPTetrev owner's new venture ViaClay offers camps, classes

June 22nd, 2020 12:38 PM

Summer camp students make pottery on Monday, June 22, 2020, at Viaclay Community Pottery Studio on Marion Street in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Oak Park ceramics artist Gabe Tetrev launched a new community pottery studio able to be enjoyed by potters of all skill levels. ViaClay, offers a variety of different classes, as well as access to studio space, pottery wheels, clay and kilns.

ViaClay is Tetrev's second pottery venture in Oak Park; he also owns his personal studio, GPTetrev Pottery, 159 S. Oak Park Ave., where he works and sells his wares. Passersby have likely seen Tetrev in its front window, spinning new creations.

"In the two years that I've been a shopkeeper selling pottery, I've gotten probably a thousand questions, like, 'How do I sign up for classes?'" Tetrev said.

Not a trained teacher, Tetrev would turn down interested students.

"I was saying no for about a year and a half, which was a mistake," he said.

When the chance presented itself, Tetrev said making the decision to open ViaClay was a "no brainer."

ViaClay is located at 208 S. Marion St.

"There was an opportunity to hire the right people at the right time and build out a pottery studio in a community that knew it wanted to take classes," said Tetrev.

Tetrev enlisted his friend, John Beck, to run the new venture as studio manager.

"He's the best studio manager I could ask for," Tetrev said. "I can build a system and he can implement that system perfectly."

Having Beck running the workshop allows Tetrev to continue making and selling his own personal work through GPTetrev Pottery.

"I knew that I wanted to keep working at GPTetrev and being a working artist and that wouldn't be possible without John running the other space," Tetrev said. "I'm so grateful to have him."

Beck and Tetrev graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2016. As OPRF students, they both took pottery classes under the guidance of Pennie Ebsen. Ebsen now teaches classes at ViaClay.

 ViaClay teaching staff also includes the current OPRF ceramics teacher Bridget Doherty, herself a former student of Ebsen's.

"Pretty much everyone in the studio at one time took Pennie's class at OPRF," said Tetrev.

While Tetrev is definitely involved in operating ViaClay, GPTetrev commandeers most of his time. Beck handles the lion's share of the day-to-day duties, including signing people up, answering questions and responding to inquiries.

"He's really put his trust in me to take care of the space," Beck said.

Although opening a new business during the COVID-19 pandemic seems daunting, ViaClay staff were ready to take on the challenge.

"Of course, there was worries," Beck said. "But we knew the steps we had to take. We prepared. We were ready to make sure everything was clean."

To maintain social distancing, no more than 10 people are allowed in the studio at any time. Beck also disinfects the studio and equipment after each use. Everyone is also required to wear masks.

"We've been doing well and everybody's healthy, which is wonderful," Beck said.

ViaClay has had a very successful start. Classes are filling up. The first session of its kids' summer camp just finished. The second session has a full roster.

OPRF students without access to the school's studio have been using ViaClay to spin new work.

Beck said he comes into work every day feeling happy, seeing people enjoying making pottery, just as he does.

"I love wheel throwing and I love being able to spread it to everybody else," Beck said.

Potters can also sign up for the membership program, which allows them access to ViaClay's equipment and the opportunity to sell their work at GPTetrev.

According to Beck, more people will have an opportunity to utilize ViaClay once the pandemic subsides.

"I'm excited for when we can actually really open up the space and let everybody work," he said. "The biggest aspect of this is the community it forms. To let other people join that community is the most important thing to me."

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