Owner and founder Roger Yee became interested in ceramics as a sophomore at Foothill High School in Pleasanton in the 1980s. He remembers being fascinated by watching someone at the wheel, throwing a lump of clay and almost magically manipulating it into a symmetrical cylinder. That started Yee on a lifetime journey into claymaking.
Later, as a teaching assistant at Diablo Valley College, Yee learned how to load and fire a kiln and make glazes – spurring on his love of this ancient art form. Yee went on to manage a number of ceramic studios around the Bay Area as well as attain a master’s of fine arts at San Jose State.
As Yee gained experience managing studios, first with community colleges then public studios in Walnut Creek, Berkeley and Mill Valley, he began to see flaws in the way others wanted him to manage their studios. That motivated him to start his own.
Academic vs. hobbyist
One thing Yee wanted to address was the disconnect between the academic potter and the hobbiest. Academic potters strive to develop and perfect the technique and artistry of the craft, utilizing historical knowledge and following the age-old practice of master and apprentice. Whereas hobbiests often have little formal training, but by utilizing the current power of social media and online tutorials, they can create a profitable business, regardless of the quality of the product.
Yee wanted to close that gap and provide an environment where hobbiests and academics could both work to improve their craft.
He opened the doors to Red Ox in September 2017. Walking into the studio today, you can clearly see how Yee has brought his extensive knowledge and experience from years of managing studios to create a safe and inspirational space for creative artists of clay.
More than 100 students currently pass through Red Ox each week. Its four kilns (two gas and two electric) process more than 2,400 ceramic pieces a week. Besides classes and an open studio for members, Red Ox holds several workshops and public events a year.
Three necessary qualities
Yee and other instructors teach a variety of classes, and I find them to be experienced, helpful and friendly. Yee chooses his instructors as much on their personality and teaching ability as on their expertise with clay.
“I believe people are attracted to the instructor first as a person, then as a teacher and last as an artist. But these three qualities are a must to be an instructor at Red Ox.”
Instructor Rosalinda Grejsen describes her studio time as “a rewarding experience on many levels. … Red Ox offers an open and friendly ceramic environment with a keen focus on organization, structure and safety. Its simple and sound expectations keep this facility running efficiently.”
Instructor Kathy Kearns adds: “It is by far the cleanest and healthiest ceramics studio I have ever worked in.”
Whether you are an experienced potter or a newbie, Red Ox can provide the support needed to learn and improve.
“Our studio is a warm and friendly place to begin setting up for a rewarding medium that continues for a lifetime,” Yee says.
For more information, go to redoxclaystudio.com.
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John Nakanishi is president of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.