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“So You Think You Can Throw. . . a Dinner Party?”

The name of Shawn Panepinto’s class, listed in the course catalog, gave those who enrolled a good idea about what was going to be in store for them in the Spring of 2009.

The focus of the class was, as the title suggested, preparing to give a dinner party on the last day of the semester that would include members of the class and their invited guests. The preparation included each student making 2 place settings (2 dinner plates, 2 salad plates, 2 bowl shaped containers, 2 drinking vessels, and one luminary for the table), and it also included planning a menu and then preparing the food.

The class divided into five teams each choosing a country or a region that its pottery and menu selections would represent. After lively debate, the teams announced their choices: the Caribbean, Spain, the Middle East and North Africa, the Southwest United States, and China. In addition to the place settings and food, each team also created a centerpiece, chose appropriate music, and decided on drinks to be served with the meals.
The culmination of the semester would be, of course, the dinner party itself! The guest list included many spouses and family members who had heard about classes and about studio activities for years, but had never actually visited. There was anticipation and excitement.

So… with a lot of work, a lot of preparation, and a lot of collaboration, it seems this class can indeed throw a dinner party!

Here are reactions to the party from some of the guests and the participants.

Last evening, the studio was literally transformed into a multi-cultural wonderland. Guests were escorted inside to help celebrate the semester-end of Shawn Panepinto’s advanced class. Dressed up in white linen, with spectacular lighting and exquisitely decorated tables displaying handmade dinnerware, it was barely recognizable. Many hands worked tirelessly to create a truly special event that featured homemade cuisine from China, The Caribbean, the American Southwest, North Africa, and Spain. Full menus were prepared and presented by members of the class, and served on handmade dinnerware inspired by those same cultures. From appetizers to desserts, with amazing main courses in between, guests were treated like VIP’s. Shawn had put together a slideshow that featured most of those in attendance, who, along with their work, were shown in memorable situations from the past. Many spouses were there (some for the first time), Cathy McCormick and her husband Dewey Dellay attended, Shawn and Delaney were presented with gifts and accolades, and Nancy Selvage put in an appearance just to finish the party on a high note.
To say that a good time was had by all would be a huge understatement! A memorable celebration of a memorable class!
(Jim Anderson, guest)

A feast to the eyes. (anonymous guest)

The food was all wonderful. (Austin de Besche, guest)

Martha Stewart, move over, you’ve got competition. Candlelight flickered in ceramic luminaries in the Main Studio as Shawn Panepinto and her 25 students greeted 35 guests on Wednesday evening, May 6, for the culmination of her Advanced Ceramics class. The course, titled “So, You Think You Can Throw a Dinner Party?” challenged her students to throw, both ceramically and literally, a gourmet dinner party in which every single place setting, serving platter, candle holder and centerpiece was to be made by them during the semester. The class had been divided into 5 teams for the two term project. The Fall semester focused on an exploration of tableware ceramic technique. During the Winter/Spring Semester, each team studied a region of the world to find artistic inspiration and a culinary theme. They created complete menus for each of the 5 regions and began to design the serving containers for the native dishes they would be cooking. As May approached, the teams added party planning to their duties; they designed the invitations, and organized the decorations, flowers, music and entertainment. The last week was a flurry of kiln firings and human activity as the class transformed the studio into a colorful banquet hall. The night of the party, guests were feted to delights from China, the American Southwest, Spain, the Carribbean, and the Arabian Mediterranean countries. The visual spectacle of 60 original handcrafted place settings was stunning. So, did the class succeed at Shawn’s challenge? As one of her students, I would answer, “Yes ( we can!)” Perhaps that’s why the lifesize cardboard cutout of President Obama was standing in the doorway. The class extends joyous thank you’s to Shawn, for guiding us “soup to nuts” through another creative endeavor. The party may be over, but the place settings will be on view at the Show and Sale. Put it on your calendar, May 14-17. (Alice Abrams, participant)

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