Closing up shop at Baltimore Clayworks

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Students and teachers rushed to pack up, and in some cases, throw out, their work from Baltimore Clayworks this past weekend. Facing over $1 million in debt, Clayworks is closing after decades in operation.

Retired pediatrician Eric Fine unwrapped the wet horse head from plastic and looked at it, not knowing what to do. He’d been working on it for weeks — the course was called “sculptural narrative with animal form.” His teacher was Kevin Rohde. But the course will never finish. Clayworks has closed — opening only for the weekend to allow students, teachers and resident artists to clear out their belongings.

“Do you think I should leave it as is?” he asked Rohde.

Yes, Rohde told him. “I wouldn’t even put it in a box.” It wouldn’t fit anyway.

Rohde had spent much of the weekend cleaning out his workspace upstairs in what he called an “emergency evacuation.” Like several of the other resident artists at Clayworks, he hadn’t found out that Clayworks would be closed until he showed up at the shop and discovered the locks had been changed.

“The closing happened in the most inhumane way possible,” said Emily Irvin, another resident. “We had our bikes, our deodorant, our lives here.”

Irvin gingerly unwrapped from plastic a figure of her late grandmother — leaning back in a laugh. “I took care of her,” she said. The clay itself was worth only about $20, but Irvin had spent weeks of labor on it. Now she wouldn’t be able to fire it — it would get tossed.

Jeremy Wallace collected fragments of leftover clay and dropped them in a bucket. “It’s clay, it’s literally dirt,” he said. He said he would add water to reconstitute it later, when he gets a chance to breathe.