Holly Neufer knew working with clay was the thing for her the first time she tried it. She walked through the door of the Radcliffe Ceramics Program in 1984 and liked the feel of the place. She liked the dustiness, the studio’s airy, garagelike space.
Then she tried “throwing” a project on a potter’s wheel and was hooked. She had been a photographer, but she put aside her camera and never looked back.
“I just walked in and felt I was home,” Neufer said.
Neufer, who runs the Quincy House ceramics studio, focused on projects involving the wheel for several years, making useful items for the home such as stoneware plates and mugs. She confesses that today, however, much of her stoneware is in storage because her twin sons, Paul and Will, can be rough on dishes.
After a few years, she began to experiment with sculpture – an experience that she said requires faith and patience. After eight hours of sculpting and waiting for inspiration one can be left with little more than a pile of clay bits, she said.
But patience eventually pays off and the bits come together into something beautiful. Today, her works include glass and metal as well as clay.
Neufer knew early on that she would like to bring others into the world she had discovered. A world that presented limitless possibilities, a world that provided the opportunity for limitless learning about clay types, glazes, techniques, and firing temperatures.
“It’s a long learning curve. It’s a lifetime to really feel like you can do anything at all,” Neufer said.
Neufer took over the Quincy House program 10 years ago and today offers classes for students of different skill levels. She also provides guidance for those who’ve made enough progress that they can work on their own. Even after a long day, she said, she feeds off the students’ enthusiasm.
“I can go to class and be dog-tired from the day. It just picks me up,” Neufer said.
Neufer tries to make the basement studio a sort of oasis from the hectic pace of academic life, she said, knowing that students have lots of pressures elsewhere.
“I try to create a haven there where they can come down,” Neufer said.