By Eric Peddigree Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
Alicia Mercuri and Cameron Gettel took a sip of wine. A sweet white from the Finger Lakes, New York.
Behind them, Stephanie Premich, co-owner of Mud & Maker, Pottsville, prepared for the upcoming pottery class. She was gathering molds and designs the class could use to decorate their projects.
This was the first pottery class for Mercuri and Gettel but they had a plan. The couple, who are preparing to get married in the spring, wanted to make a chip and dip bowl. An early start to their newlywed dish collection.
"It's fun to branch out and do new things we have never done before. That's why I like it," Gettel, Hershey, said.
The couple were two of 16 people at Wheel and Wine on Feb. 13 at the city art studio, 6 S. Centre St. According to the Mud & Maker website, www.mudandmaker.com, "participants are welcome to BYOB (bring your own beer) while you learn how to make your very own pottery."
"I'm all about supporting our local businesses, so this is really exciting for us," Mercuri said.
Premich said the studio hosts two public Wheel and Wine classes a month and private sessions upon request. She said they average three or four private classes a month, ranging from bachelorette parties to office team building exercises.
Classes cost $25, which includes materials, instruction and two sessions -- the night of the event where participants make their projects and a follow-up to glaze the pottery after it is cooked. Registration is available on the studio's website.
Premich said the public classes, which seat between 14 and 16 people, usually sell out. Two classes in February sold out and the first class this month, scheduled for March 14, only has four seats remaining, according to the website.
The Wheel and Wine classes are part of an increasingly popular trend of events that mix drinking and art.
Premich said she brought such classes to Schuylkill County about four years ago. She held the classes at Oak Hill Inn, Orwigsburg, before she opened Mud & Maker.
"I started doing the Wheel and Wines just to do something that was a little bit more of an adult feel to it. Something that was a little bit more exclusive for adults to come do that they could come to a class and unwind and have a nice date night," she said.
The classes are open to people age 21 and older, and they are only allowed to bring wine or beer.
"Most people understand that it is supposed to be casual," Premich said.
However, she added that alcohol is not required as people have opted to bring bottled water or coffee instead.
Over the four years of holding these classes, Premich said she has never had an issue with people drinking too much or acting uncontrollably.
"Most people behave. It's never an issue of that natural," she said.
On Feb. 13, Wayne Lutsey and his wife, Carol, were making bowls for their grandchildren. It was also their first time at a Wheel and Wine event.
"We are being patriotic so we brought some Yuengling, and some wine," Wayne said.
The Lutskys were attending the class with two other couples. Wayne said they were celebrating Valentine's Day, joking the men were "taking one for the team."
Premich said the classes usually have a good gender mix, also joking that it's "a lot of women and lots of good husbands."
But she said men not only have a good time, they make great art.
"There definitely are guys who are very, very creative that come. They have awesome projects because they come and they are ready to go," Premich said.
Premich said people from out of the region, such as Scranton, Philadelphia and New Jersey, have participated in Wheel and Wine classes. She said some participants have built a weekend trip to the county around the class, staying with family or friends.
"People love to be creative and I think the popularity of Pinterest is a pretty big part of that," Premich said, referring to the collection and storage website. "Everyone wants to be crafty but they need someone to show them how to do it. When you go to one, you are hiring a professional that knows what they are doing to teach you how to do a project."
She believes the classes also draw a crowd because the projects can be used in everyday life, such as bowls, plates and mugs. "That's why I think the Wheel and Wines are really popular because there is a functuality to it, too," Premich said, adding projects have the potential to be food, microwave and dishwasher safe.
As for whether she thinks there is a connection between art and alcohol, Premich said it might help people come out their shells.
"As far as the general public kind of tipping their toes into a project, it certainly loosens them up a little bit," she said.