What do you get when you put two entrepreneurs and pottery night together?

As an entrepreneur, my thoughts are always full of to-do lists, business development ideas, and whether the next person you meet will be a partner or a client.

On and on these thoughts go. Sometimes, they pop up in my mind the moment I wake in the morning.

My husband and I are both entrepreneurs — each with our own company — and we always look for ways to shut off these thoughts.

The Way Towards Peace

While both of us meditate and take time for ourselves, we decided to try out something uniquely fun and new for the two of us: a couples’ pottery class.

Beautiful selection of pottery in the MUGI storefront and studio.

On a Saturday night, we went to the MUGI studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and met our pottery instructor, Ivan Samuels. Five other couples attended — a full house.

The front of the storefront displayed an eclectic assortment of glazed pottery. We walked into an intimate studio in the back with a central table, pottery wheels, and clay drying on the shelves.

MUGI Pottery Gallery & Studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Inside, we felt the warmth of the kiln as it fired a batch of pottery. We were far from the activity of New York City’s Amsterdam Avenue.

Ivan demonstrated how to make a cup using clay and simple tools — rolling pins, brushes, scoring knives, and wooden shaping pieces.

Pottery instructor, Ivan Samuels, demonstrates how to make a clay cup.

We pounded and slammed our clay on the table, then rolled it flat and cut it to shape. To make textures, we rolled patterned lace onto our slab of clay and carefully lifted it to reveal the imprint.

Then, using a step by step process and “slip” — a mixture of wet clay used to fuse edges — we created cups, vases, or planters. It was remarkable how quickly we learned from the demonstration to do something entirely new.

Soon, the six different couples were focused on their creations. Aside from the sounds of clay being shaped and background music, it was quiet.

Working Together

My husband and I never do couples classes together because I’m too much of a perfectionist and am competitive (I’m working on it..). He has training as a sculptor and made things with his hands since he was a kid, so I felt a bit out of my league.

“It’s not a competition,” Ivan the instructor said, smiling.

Verlocal Ambassador Julie Chan making a vase.

Every so often, I asked my husband to remind me of the next step and if I didn’t figure it out, he jumped in to help.

Other couples also helped each other out. When one person complained that their cup didn’t look good, her partner said, “No, no, it looks great! Don’t worry about it.”

Another couple was so coordinated and collaborative that they would be incredible on The Amazing Race.

“I like how everyone is working together,” Ivan remarked.

My husband made an elaborate teapot, complete with a handle, spout and lid, while I tried to make my basic cup/vase look a little more interesting.

My husband making a teapot with other classmates hard at work.

I remembered previous art teachers telling me to just trust my intuition and trust the process. “Maybe I’ll pinch the top into a star pattern,” I thought, and it actually turned out better than I expected.

By the end of the two hours, everyone put on finishing touches, washed up and left. The vessels will dry over the next few weeks and Ivan will glaze the clay with our chosen colors. Once they are fully dry, he will fire them in the kiln.

The finished creations of the Couples Pottery Class before they get glazed and fired in the kiln.

His Calling

As I cleaned the clay off my hands at the sink, I asked Ivan how he started doing pottery.

Instructor Ivan Samuels has been making clay pottery for 13 years.

He became a potter late in his career, when he was in his 30’s. It’s now been 13 years.

There was something about working with clay and its forgiving nature that stuck with him. While he had experience with design and the technical aspects of art, he found pottery to be a medium ripe for trying new things and taking risks.

He also loved horticulture and culinary arts, so the functionality of pottery complemented his other interests.

Pottery became his calling.

“Try something new and see what it’s like,” he advised those looking for their own calling. “And do it when you’re young.”

Intricate pottery displayed in the MUGI Studio storefront.

Leaving the pottery studio, my husband and I reflected on our experience. He found it peaceful working with his hands and immediately turning his vision into reality. For two hours, he was engrossed with what he was doing and nothing else.

Everyone’s creativity and ability to just dive into something new impressed me. I also learned to use humor to let go of getting things just right — all great lessons for any entrepreneur.

Plus, I enjoyed knowing that my own creation will soon sit on my desk as a reminder that we never know how something will turn out until we give it a try.

It may even be your next calling.


MUGI started as a working studio and gallery space in Manhattan in 1983 by three adventurous potters looking to establish a venue to sell their work and make pottery classes available to the Upper West Side community.

For more on MUGI, host Outi, and this Verlocal class, click here.

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