SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Eight residents from Brandywine Living in Princeton took a trip to The Clay Pot, a pottery studio in Spotswood, on Thursday. One of them, 89-year old Sabatino Costanzo, was more excited than the others because he used to be a full-time pottery instructor at Plainfield's duCret School of Art from 1983-1997. He looked forward to getting his hands on clay again after so many years.
According to Stephanie Gaber, Escapades Producer at Brandywine Living Princeton, “an outing to the Clay Pot is a fun, yet educational experience for the Brandywine residents. We have learned the art of the Pottery Wheel, Raku, the pottery technique that originated in 17th century Japan, pottery painting and sculpting. We visit at least twice a year for a new experience. The staff is so kind and Owner Martin Talavera loves to share his passion for pottery with our residents. It’s always a beautiful experience."
Costanzo told us, "For eleven years I was an accountant, but I decided at one point I would go back to school and give up accounting as a career." He began by studying at an art school on 57th Street in New York City, taking a course in life drawing.
"I drew and painted - an arm, a leg, a hand," he noted. "My wife said, 'The girl's nude, isn't she?' But I didn't draw any of the interesting parts," he added, as he chuckled.
Costanzo then became interested in ceramics and took classes in downtown New York City for about two years around the time of the Vietnam War. He said his fellow students were protesting the war, but as a veteran of the U.S. Army, he didn't participate.
From there, Costanzo noted, "I knew a potter out in Allentown, PA, by the name of Raymond Gallucci." He said he became Gallucci's apprentice before coming back home to set up his own studio. (Gallucci's works can be seen in many businesses and institutions around the Lehigh Valley, according to his online obituary.)
"However, just like anybody who is a fine artist, you've gotta do something else in life to pay the bills," Costanzo said. He went to work for the Robert Half accounting firm. "While I would do ceramics, I would work there to make some money."
Eventually, he said, he got a job teaching at night at Watchung Hills, and he liked it. Around 1977, he had a part-time opportunity to teach an elective at Plainfield's duCret School of Art. Thanks to his accounting background, he also helped out with the school's financial aid.
"I would have students do a lot of hand building first. My idea was if you do hand building, and later on if you got on the wheel and got frustrated, you could always go back and do some hand building." He elaborated on the process, talking of coils and slabs and pinches.
"My greatest success in teaching was with girls. Guys were too macho," Costanzo said.
He added that when you have that pot that you think is so tremendous, so great, you're going to put it on the mantel. But as you get better and better, "that piece moves further and further away, but you do always keep your first piece."
Timothy Priano, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at duCret, joined us at The Clay Pot. He told the former instructor, "the ceramics room hasn't changed," and all in attendance wondered if pieces by Costanzo were still at the school.
Michael Donato, a teacher at duCret, recalled his time spent with Costanzo when he learned we met with him.
"I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to hear about Sabatino! So many years ago, but I have fond memories of our conversations regarding, of course, art, and in many cases Italian art. Sab, as we called him, was quite a conversationalist and always interesting. He particularly got a kick out of it when I would respond to him using Sicilian dialect. Always wearing the beret, and still looks the same."
Gaber told us, "Brandywine Living at Princeton residents love adventure, so we go all over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. We have visited the observation deck in Philadelphia, One World Observatory in New York City, we have been on the Cape May Whale Watcher, make a few trips to Asbury Park in the summer, and sit on the beach under umbrellas eating ice-cream and walking on the shore at the break of the waves. We love to go wine tasting and have visited numerous wineries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We even tried glass blowing for the first time at Hot Sands in Asbury Park. And we love go to see the Rockettes around the holidays!"
About Brandywine Living: Brandywine Living is a market leader in luxury senior living, including assisted living, memory care and independent living. Founded in 1996, and headquartered in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, Brandywine currently operates 29 communities in six states (PA, NJ, NY, CT, VA & DE) with the capacity to serve over 3,000 residents.
About duCret School of Art: The duCret School of Art is NJ's oldest art school and is a non-profit organization that provides a rigorous and industry-focused education experience for those desiring a professional career in the arts and entertainment field. Its educational philosophy is based on mentor-style interactions between instructors and students — in class, in production and through active shows and exhibits. It is a school designed to develop artist entrepreneurs. All of the duCret instructors are actively working artists who share their business wisdom while tutoring emerging artists in the skills and techniques of a variety of visual arts mediums.
About The Clay Pot: The Clay Pot is a pottery studio located in Spotswood, New Jersey that opened its doors in 2010, making all pottery pieces by hand. This ensures that you get beautiful, one of a kind, hand crafted pieces unlike the typical pottery painting places. And unlike the paint-your-own pottery places, the shop also offers clients the option to work with clay. People of all ages come to the studio to experience the thrill of turning a lump of clay into a fantastic piece of art by taking part in wheel-experiences and wheel-lessons.