Ottawa seniors ‘hit between the eyes’ by skyrocketing pottery rates

The close-knit group has supported each other through death and illness. Now Myrna Lightman worries that some can’t afford classes.

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If you recently heard a loud gasp in Nepean, it might have been Myrna Lightman, when she discovered that the fee for her beloved hand-built pottery studio class was more than doubling.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear the scream,” Lightman said in an interview. “It was a real surprise.”

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In late January, she received notice that the fee for her ceramics studio class would increase to more than $450, before taxes and her 10 percent senior discount.

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Lightman is a hand builder, meaning she makes mugs, sculptures, figurines and more with just a slab of clay and her hands—no wheel required. What’s more, these “studio” classes are for experienced potters and do not have an instructor.

And while Lightman realizes that sustained levels of high inflation have affected every aspect of life, from groceries to gas to clay, “you can’t justify that,” he said of the significant percentage increase. “You just can’t.”

The city of Ottawa, however, says it has seen “exponential growth” in the number of people taking its ceramics classes over the next decade. “Spending on ceramic supplies, including chemicals, specialized equipment, and kiln repairs and parts, has increased significantly over time, while increases in recovery fees have been minimal in comparison,” explained Dan Chenier, manager of recreation, culture and family of the city. services, via email.

The studies also require the expertise of a technician to fire the parts, which adds a “significant but necessary cost to the service,” Chenier said, and that the current rate “only minimally covers ongoing operating costs.”

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He added that access to pottery facilities “is not intended to be a subsidized basic municipal service, and there are no tax funds dedicated to offsetting the cost of customer access.”

Chenier said the increase to $450 would be phased in over four years. For the spring 2024 session, the price is $330 for 10 three-hour sessions.

Lightman has attended ceramics classes at the Nepean Visual Arts Center for more than 20 years, forging lifelong friendships with a group of devoted potters. Many of the potters are retired and live on fixed incomes, she said.

“Many people live alone, are widows or have husbands with Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “This is his break with reality, going into the studio to decompress.”

The group is also a place where newcomers make friends through the shared bond of pottery.

Over the years, the close-knit group has supported each other through death, illness, and more. But now Lightman worries that some won’t be able to pay for classes.

“It’s more than just making ceramics. We are a support network. We have become a family. “You can’t put a price on that.”

Lightman says rate increases should have been increased gradually over the past three years.

“This is a city-owned operation,” he says. “Why are taxpayers penalized like this? “You can’t just hit someone between the eyes like that.”

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