25 May 2016
Visual artistry can be found virtually anywhere in the Florida Keys. Inspiration might come from palm-fringed shorescapes that edge the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, or the orange and purple abstracts unrolling against vast skies at sunset. Aspiring potters working from the clay of the earth also learn, find inspiration and practice their craft at Middle and Upper Keys studios. Opportunities abound around the island chain for those eager to explore their own potential and discover others' artistry.

For example Islamorada's Morada Way Clay is located at 140 Morada Way, mile marker (MM) 81.5 oceanside. The fine art gallery and ceramics studio features local potters and offers multisession clay classes, single-day workshops, open-studio experiences and individual private instruction. 
Facilities include two electric kilns, a gas-fired raku kiln, four wheels, tools and molds. Students learn how to apply glazing through silk screening on moist clay. 
Pottery-painting sessions also are offered. Participants can choose to paint ornamental items or functional bowls and cups — all designed and handcrafted by Morada Way Clay's studio potters.

After more than 20 years inside the eclectic Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery, Dwayne and Cindy King relocated and opened Old Road Gallery at MM 88.8 between U.S. Highway 1 and the Old Highway (aka Old Road), showcasing and selling their customized bronze, copper and clay creations. Dwayne King, self-taught in bronze, clay, copper and hard woods media, grew up in the Florida Keys and spent years as a treasure salvor. His early inspirations for a jewelry shop were Spanish coins he mounted in gold. Cindy moved to the islands in the late 1980s after earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Although her early drawings included pen and ink or graphite sketches of ancient coins and diving artifacts, she is the whimsical influence behind many of the studio's clay sculptures. Together the duo excels at bringing the soul of each piece to life. Not only is the pottery studio on-site, but visitors also can explore the hardwood forest and nature trails that wind throughout the property.

Visitors to Marathon can express themselves in various media including oil, watercolors and acrylic at The Art Studio at MM 53.6 oceanside. But among the most popular activities are sculpting and paint-your-own-pottery experiences. The facility features one of the Keys' most expansive facilities for throwing clay, and classes are available for everyone ages 5 and up. Kids' clay hand building enables children ages 5 to 11 to create a small sculpture with basic techniques. For ages 12 and up, clay hand building classes offer instruction to make free-form sculptures or plates, a house address plaque, a teapot, pitchers or vases, animals and more. Visitors to the Art Studio also can learn the basic techniques of how to center and throw a pot on a wheel — in clay wheel-throwing classes that include glazes and kiln firings. Families, couples and even girls get-together participants can enjoy painting and glazing their own "art" on already-thrown pieces of pottery, creating their own memories.

Artist Amanda Jorgensen works from her home studio,Coral Shores Ceramics Inc., as well as the co-op studio Morada Way Clay in Islamorada. She primarily displays her handmade pottery at Keys-based art shows and Marathon's newest, and exclusively local, Shady Palm Art Gallery & Photography at 2888 Overseas Highway. Jorgensen, who relocated from Minnesota two years ago, specializes in functional wares such as pendants, ornaments, bowls and Florida Keys-stamped mugs, the gallery's best-selling items. She admits she is always learning, even after a decade of honing her skills. Jorgensen will schedule personalized, one-on-one pottery-making classes, including hand building and wheel throwing, or plan group sessions like ladies' night pottery parties. Call 763-360-7679.

Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS 
Florida Keys cultural information: fla-keys.com/culture/ 
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