Every Monday, women from across the area get together to paint companionably, with snacks and conversation.

It’s Carolyn Jackson’s ceramics workshops, in her studio in the Dyer’s Store community.

These women choose forms Jackson has made earlier, and they sit for as long as they want, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., painting and chatting. They just pay a few dollars for a form and $5 for the session, including paints.

Jackson’s start in ceramics came in the early 1970s, when she took a class with her sister, Dorothy Wyatt of Martinsville.

She liked it so much she kept on until she was ready to welcome other women to the craft: In 1973 she opened a ceramics workshop in the basement of her home in Axton.

Once she moved to Dyer’s Store, she opened a ceramics studio in the old Dyer’s Store Grocery, an unmarked, small, white clapboard building that once was a cornerstone of the community.

A few years later, she and her husband, David Jackson, built a studio beside their house, which is down the road from the old grocery. Outside, it looks like a charming country house, complete with flower pots. Inside, it’s a combination beauty shop (she does hair Tuesdays through Fridays), kitchenette and arts studio.

Jackson creates the forms in molds. She has about 1,000 molds of all topics – figurines, kitchen ware, vases, holiday decorations and more. To keep variety she swaps molds with Brenda Pace of Ridgeway and two other ceramics artists on a regular basis, she said.

How they do ceramics

To create a form, Jackson pours a liquid clay, called “slip,” into a mold and lets it set for about half an hour, more or less depending on size. As the moisture comes out of the slip, she gradually adds more slip. Then she lets it drain, then set for a day to dry.

After cleaning the seams, she puts the piece into a kiln to fire for 7 or 8 hours.

After someone chooses an item, she must decide whether to use glaze or paint on it.

Glazes must be painted on in several layers. Acrylic paints can be applied in one layer but then would be covered with a sealer.

Robin Smith has been doing ceramics with Jackson for 25 years, she said. “I’ve been coming since my babies were little, and now they’re out of the” house. She said that glazes generally are used for food-serving pieces, while acrylics are used on decorations.

“A glaze has a different look — shiny,” she said. “Glazing in different colors is really complicated, because each color has to get three coats — and you have to get the same lines” each time.

After the three coats, a glazed piece must be fired again in the kiln before a final coating is applied, she said.

In contrast, painting with acrylics is faster, and the colors are more vivid, she said.

Whenever someone makes a lamp, her husband wires it, Carolyn Jackson said. He also helps pour large molds.

“It’s a lot of fun in here,” said Carolyn Nelson, who is working on a Christmas tree that is so large it has to stack in three pieces. “I just started last January, and I’m addicted to it.”

Touches of Christmas

Juanita Dooley was painting an old-style pickup truck green, a memento of an old green Chevy truck her grandfather used to have. She already has painted a Christmas pickup truck, she said.

When it comes to figurines of animals or people, “she does the eyes,” Dooley said, pointing at Jackson. “We don’t do eyes real good,” and a few laughed.

Nancy Bryant was painting a Santa’s boot while Karen Mabry, who usually makes Christmas decorations, was painting a witch’s boot in a variety of colors.

Across from Karen Mabry sat her sister-in-law, Becky Mabry, who was painting oval inserts for a large flower pot. The flower pot still has two Christmas inserts, she said, and soon she’ll swap them out with inserts with summery designs.

Sisters Dillard Carter and Susie Carter come on a regular basis with a longtime friend, Lillie Wade. Wade said her only criteria for deciding what to paint is that she likes “all pretty things.”

Of course the Jackson home next door is filled with ceramics, Carolyn Jackson laughed. She especially likes to make gifts for people and “any kind of holiday” decoration for herself.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.