Art classes with a twist – Puff Pass & Paint comes to Oakland

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Art instructor Tyler Joyner speaks with participants during a Puff, Pass & POTtery gathering on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. SOURCE: Noah Berger

There is something very freeing about putting your hands in clay and creating an object. It’s a completely tactile experience, a chance to bring forth form out of nothing and let the worries of the day effortlessly drift aside.

For the founders of Puff, Pass & Paint, the act of pottery making is even mellower when you’re also using cannabis — as I discovered last month, at a Puff, Pass, POTtery class held in a warehouse space on Oakland’s Mandela Parkway. I created a basic ashtray and attempted to form a roach clip, all while getting high and — the most fun part — making new friends.

PP&P began in Denver in January 2014 — when the state’s recreational cannabis shops first opened — when founder Heidi Keyes put together the first art-class-meets-pot event. Equal parts art class, social event and cannabis celebration, the events are now held in Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Washington, D.C. There are painting, creative writing and cooking events as well as ceramics classes.

Puff, Pass & Paint affairs are much like the adult art classes you might find on Groupon, except in addition to complimentary wine and snacks, there may also be complementary cannabis. No promises on that, though: To host the events, organizers operate in a legal gray area in states that allow cannabis consumption for those over 21.

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Puff, Pass & POTtery participants share marijuana while sculpting on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Noah Berger

Owner Keyes said, “All of our classes are private events, which require our students to be 21-plus and also to have tickets purchased in advance. We do not accept any walk-ins.”

They do not also supply or guarantee any cannabis in the cost of the class. Instead, if class sponsors such as pot brands want to market to the class, attendees may find vape pens on the tables. Much like restaurants that don’t have a license to serve alcohol, these ticketed events are bring-your-own gatherings.

Dey Nava of Oakland and Nigel Nixon of El Cerrito smiled and laughed together at the end of a table as they worked their clay. Even though the class’ instructors teach patrons the skills necessary to paint a particular scene or, in the case of the pottery class, craft an ashtray or a cup, they are also open to students just following their creative urges. Nava made a jewelry rack.

“It’s very cathartic to work in clay,” she said at the end of the roughly two-hour lesson, which costs $39 to $54, depending on whether you take your project home with you or have it shipped. “I liked the personal touch from the instructors. They were very talkative, and it was great.”

For Nava, cannabis wasn’t the main draw but an added bonus. She had never attended a marijuana-friendly gathering before.

“If (this event) was wine and pottery, that would be just as good,” she said.

San Francisco resident Matt Zagariello joined friends at a long table.

“This is probably what I would normally be spending my evening doing, minus the clay,” he said.

Sitting across from him and simultaneously puffing on a joint and working with his ball of clay, Zagariello’s friend Jackson Haddad of San Francisco agreed. Dressed in graphic T-shirts, the men, both in their early 30s, looked like a pair you’d be more likely to see at a comedy festival than an art class.

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Ana Gonzalez makes pottery during Puff, Pass & POTtery on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Noah Berger

Instructor Tyler Joyner — who has a master’s in divinity studies and recently moved to the Bay Area from Denver to host two classes a week — approached the event from an art-first perspective.

“I totally have always used art as my most sacred practice,” he said, adding that having a creative outlet and utilizing cannabis helps him manage his emotions. “This is healing. It doesn’t mean you are less of a person because you consume cannabis.”

Loading my personal pipe with my own stash more often than almost anyone else in the room, I was trying to get as high as possible — for stress relief and as a personal comedic challenge. Most people had also brought their own supplies, though there were free vape pens available from Bay Area company Alchemy.

Working while high took away the pressure to craft a masterpiece, and I was able to loosen up and have fun. My day had included receiving an uncomfortably long eye exam. The art and cannabis therapy combo, coupled with the no-pressure instruction, let me completely unwind.

At the end, I’d handmade a crude ashtray, and though my clay roach clip turned out to be a little too large, it may still work out for hitting the very last of a larger blunt.

At one point, I accidentally rolled my clay into shreds of bud I had left on the table.

“That’s OK, it will burn off in the kiln,” Joyner said.

 Ellen Holland is the Senior Editor of Cannabis Now.