Laurie Osborne and Nicolas Ramos Flores work on pottery wheels Thursday in the clay studio at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Nicolas Ramos Flores pressed his wet hands on the clay as it spun around on the potter’s wheel.

“I’m trying to center the clay, and to do that you have to put pressure on it,” he said. “It’s sort of a difficult process.”

He kept one hand on the clay, dipped the other in a bucket of water and then returned it to the wheel.

“I’m trying to make a mug but from the looks of this, I don’t think a mug is going to happen,” he said, smiling.

Ramos Flores was in the Ticonic Clay Studio on Thursday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville, practicing his craft next to Laurie Osborne of Oakland who also was working at a potter’s wheel.

“I’m hoping to make a bowl,” she said. “I’m trying to make it taller.”


She and Ramos Flores were practicing on their own for the six-week beginner class they attend each Monday, taught by Yvonne Brown.

Learning to work with clay is a fun diversion and could just become an obsession, according to Osborne, who taught Shakespeare at Colby College for 31 years and four years at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, before that.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Osborne, 66, a Tennessee native. “I just retired.”

Ramos Flores, 33, grew up in Florida. Four years ago, he came to Colby where he teaches Latino literature and culture. He is on sabbatical, researching and writing a book on memory and trauma in Puerto Rican and Puerto Rican-American literature. He also is taking a virtual French class.

He said he enjoys being in Waterville and lives in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons which houses Colby students and staff. His office overlooks downtown, where he has been seeing more and more people strolling the streets since road and building construction ended as part of revitalization efforts.

“Waterville has changed a lot in the four years I’ve been here and it’s been interesting to watch that change. It definitely has room to grow and it’ll be interesting to see what that ‘room to grow’ looks like.”


Osborne moved to a table where she began to work a ball of clay with her palms, as if kneading bread. She said she was getting the air out of it which is necessary before readying it for the wheel.

As they worked side-by-side, she and Ramos Flores, both of whom hold PhDs, laughed, chatted about teaching, the friends they have in common, Waterville and the therapeutic benefits of a hobby such as working with clay.

“When you are a teacher or academic researcher, it can be very restorative to have an activity that uses your physical concentration,” Osborne said.

They were the only two people working the wheels Thursday but said their Monday class is full, with seven students. In the class they learn the basics of shaping, trimming and glazing. The clay, glazings, firings and studio access are included.

The clay studio, which is in the Schupf Center’s Ticonic Gallery + Studios, also has classes for intermediates and teens, as well as special sessions. Memberships are available for those who can work without supervision and the studio is open to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The quiet studio is visible through a wall of glass facing Main Street, as well as one overlooking Front Street to the east.

Ramos Flores said he hopes to make bowls and mugs to give away as gifts. It is satisfying to see the finished product after working on a piece, he said. Beyond that, he enjoys the socialization.

“You get to see the community,” he said. “I’m enjoying that aspect of it — meeting people out of the Colby level.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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