I highly recommend Ellen Shankin's workshop at La Meridiana.
Ellen is a wonderful teacher. The workshop is very well organized allowing for skills to be learned as well as time for exploration. She has an unusually keen sense of form, and is able to impart this knowledge through discussion and helpful critique.
Ellen, along with her husband Brad Warstler really go the extra mile by organizing several small excursions to visit local artists. In doing this it allows the students to be exposed to the rich ceramic culture of the Tuscan region.
Bev Zerbib Berda 2010, 2013
At long last I'm sending a thank you to you for hosting the most outstanding workshop and time together. Asked by everyone "how was it" I described the best I could the details and recollections of my time with you all. It's been fun to share my photos and thoughts because it helps me hold onto the experience. It was really and truly... wonderful! Thank you for your (and Brads) devotion to us and guiding us through each part of Tuscany, and clay, and la Meridiana. Your warm friendly nature made this first-timer feel right at home.
Nancy Freeborn 2018
If you are looking to combine a pottery workshop along with an Italian cultural experience I highly recommend taking this outstanding workshop with Ellen. Ellen is an outstanding instructor, in my opinion, the best ever. She shares so much information, instructional as well as hands on with her students. She makes each day with her a memorable experience. Each class day is filled with instruction, demos, discussion and student work time with the clay interrupted at noon by an outstanding gourmet Tuscan lunch accompanied by lovely Chianti from the local region. Accommodations are within walking distance of the studio in an authentic Tuscan farmhouse fully furnished with sleeping accommodations, kitchen, bath facilities. Weekends are free time for you to travel to surrounding areas. Make new friends with like interests from all over the country. There were also occasional evening trips to other local potteries in the region along with optional programs such as wine tastings, and learning to cook an Italian meal with La Meridiana's chief chef Lucia to name a couple. Both Ellen and her husband Brad make your time in Tuscany a memorable experience. I highly recommend joining them on their next planned workshop at LaMeridiana!!!
Karen Lewit 2004, 2006, 2018
Re: Ellen Shankin Workshop at La Meridiana in Tuscany:
If you are a potter and looking for an excuse to spend 2 weeks in Italy fooling around with clay, then you should seriously consider Ellen's workshop.
Imagine 2 weeks in a Tuscan hilltop villa, with demos by a world-class potter, and the freedom to spend hours making pots.....and drying them in the Tuscan sun...
Punctuated by a mid-day feast prepared by a fabulous local cook, all the (local) wine you can drink....
and in your spare time, touring nearby hill towns notable for their ceramic contributions.
All in the company of other potters like yourself, having a fabulous time.
I highly recommend the experience and hope to return some day.
Maria Cabri, 2015
I first became acquainted with Ellen from my best friend, who talked me into going to Italy for a two week pottery course Ellen was giving. On first meeting her, I felt like we had been friends for years. Ellen has a way of putting everyone at ease. Our accommodations were wonderful, and the view on our short walk in the mornings to La Meridiana Ceramic School will forever be in my memory. Once everyone was ready, Ellen would demonstrate different pottery forms, explaining what she was doing as she was throwing. After an incredible Italian lunch, we were free to tackle our own pottery, ask her questions, or have Ellen demonstrate a certain form again. As Ellen demonstrates her pottery skills, she will tell wonderful stories , ask students questions, and help one on one.
This was such an incredible experience, my best friend and I have been in 2004, 2006, and once again in 2018. I will forever be grateful.
Karen R. Hambright, 2004, 2006, 2018
The workshop with Ellen Shankin at la Meridiana was truly one of the best workshops I’ve taken. I had done some simple forms with clay before I took the workshop, but wanted to learn more. Ellen walked us through everything step by step, from centering the clay to techniques to make various forms, how to alter them, and when to stop working on a piece. She was so willing to share her experiences – surface texture, glazing, firing, problem solving, using the right tools, etc … She made sure we all got individual help and "remedial hour" * at the end of the day was so helpful. She was encouraging and enthusiastic about our efforts. Her piece, whether it be a vase, bowl, teapot, platter or other, is exquisitely crafted, gorgeous form and so elegant. I am fortunate to be able to learn from Ellen and have benefited from her teaching a lot. The environment of the studio in la Meridiana is so beautiful, pleasant and calm – plus delicious food and good wine during the workshop. I can't recommend this enough if you are looking for a valuable and fun experience of learning pottery making.
Julia Chu, 2013
* remedial hour is a re do of every day's demo at 4:00 for those who would like to see it after they have actually tried to use the skill shown.
I can't think of a better way to experience Tuscany for the first time, than to take one of Ellen's workshops at la Meridiana. Actually, we loved it so much that we had to go two years in a row! The entire two weeks were filled with delights for the senses, with wine tastings, Lucia's incredible lunches, beautiful scenery and side trips to visit medieval hill towns and potteries. But then, of course, there were also the pottery lessons! Ellen is an inspiring and natural teacher who meets the needs of each student at whatever point they are in their pottery journey. The lessons were fun and lighthearted but also hard work, so that by the end of the session I could see real progress in my skills.
I have learned so much from Ellen as she has shared what it takes to be a professional.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Ellen's kind husband, Brad, was working hard to make sure that everyone had a rewarding holiday and that any unexpected problems were quickly taken care of.
Wish we could go every year!
Alison Packer, 2014, 2015
The Italy workshop with Ellen Shankin, which I attended on September 2014 at La Meridiana Pottery School, meant a lot to me; as it was a trigger to follow my love of clay as my main activity.
I do remember with lots of gratitude the patient and lovely advice Ellen gave me, especially that if I wanted to improve my skill on the wheel – that was low by then- I would need to practice on it in a daily basis; Brad always willing to help; Pietro and the beautiful school on a gorgeous location; the classroom fully equipped and ready for our learning experience; the people in the school and the assistants; the Giouguli terrace and walking along this beautiful landscape every day; the demos with Ellen showing in a detailed way how to make interesting pieces on the wheel and many tips to alter them; interesting and useful exercises - such as handles and lids; everyone on the class putting a lot of attention and special interest in the demos with lots of questions that Ellen was always keen to answer; the coffee breaks even with a short play; the wine tasting session; Certaldo´s exquisite downtown with the majolica demonstration; San Gimignano visit and getting to know a skillful potter working at his charming shop; Volterra and its amazing pottery museum; Ellen showing us slides on her work- the work of a master showing her passion for pottery; other fellow students showing their works: jewelry made of clay, experimenting with glazes, their studios; the lovely day we spent with Tomek on the Chianti; Lucia´s delicious food…
Everything was so special and I am grateful for having had this experience and recall every person and part of this workshop with a smile on my face
Claudia Varela, 2014. Bogotá, Colombia
I have been lucky enough to take three classes at La Meridiana – it is possibly my favorite place on earth, and I go back every few years. I have had several instructors, but my favorite so far has been Ellen Shankin. She does fabulous work, and is a very good teacher, but she did something that the other instructors did not – she created opportunities for us to see more of Tuscany than we would have during a normal course there.
Ellen arranged a bunch of extras that we could sign up for if we wanted to including trips to museums, a tour of the chianti region, wine tasting nights, and cooking classes. She really wanted us to get the most out of our time with her. She did extras beyond what you would expect from an instructor - like bring us pizza one night when we all wanted to work late.
I have loved La Meridiana every time I have had the good fortune to get to go there, and I have learned a lot from each instructor I had there. Ellen has a lot of great tricks to teach – she approaches the clay in a way that I had not seen before. In addition to her lessons, she helped several students work on our personal weak spots. I would highly recommend taking a class from her – especially the one she teaches at La Meridiana!
Marie Wright, 2014
What a combination - excellent instruction, delicious food and a picture post card location! It's been 3 years and Ellen's workshop at La Meridiana remains a highlight for me. I never sit at the wheel without putting skills I learned there to use. Anyone looking for real value added in their workshop experience needs to make this one a must do.
Oh yes, I'm pleased to let you know that the time you spent teaching handle pulling has finally had payoff!
Fran Neuman, 2013
I am afraid I can't think of anything new or different to say about our trip to Tuscany or to Ellen's workshop that hasn't been said already. I have come home inspired to "alter" everything. Don't be surprised if the next time you run into me I am rectangular and I have a spout!
Ellen and Brad - If you ever give up as artists, I would recommend a job as travel guides. It wasn't only Ellen inspiring us as potters (I was going to write ceramicist but wasn't sure how to say it or spell it) but your skill at making it fun and memorable for each and every one of us.
I am back in my old life working a full time hectic schedule but you have inspired me to consider retirement from my day job as soon as it is feasible (so I can improve my skills in clay).
Thank you to every one in the class and to Claudia too. You were also inspiring to me as well. You were all great role models for having a studio and selling your work. You were all special people and I feel privileged to have spent this time with you.
Thank you to all the spouses who made me laugh and watched over me to make sure I didn't lose my bike chain on the road. Thanks to my roommates and my housemates too. Hope to see you all sometime in the future.
Mindy Wiener, 2012
It was the best of all possible workshops, with the best teacher, the best setting & facilities, the best attendees! Thanks to you all, and especially Ellen & Brad, who thought out each detail to enhance our experience. The Bocaccio performances were an unexpected treat, thanks to Claudia and Giorgio!
Linda Dyke 2012