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Turlock artist opens yurt for clay classes
yurt pic1
Titia Barnett-Gudde works on a fountain in her yurt. She has transformed the tent-like structure into a classroom for clay and sculpting classes for children and adults. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal

Children and adults who love to get their hands dirty in the name of art have a new outlet for creative expression in an unconventional classroom. Titia Barnett-Gudde converted her backyard yurt into an art studio classroom where she will offer clay lessons for young and old. The yurt is a portable, but sturdy, lattice-framed tent and Barnett-Gudde said that it makes for a surprisingly good work space.

“I like it because it is round. You can never get stuck in your thoughts. They can never get cornered,” Barnett-Gudde said.

These private clay classes are a new endeavor for Barnett-Gudde, but she has 18 years previous experience teaching art at California State University, Stanislaus. As an introduction to ceramics teacher she worked with beginners to help them build, fire and glaze projects. She also taught upper division carving to more experienced students.  She has also worked with younger children in a classroom setting, and wants to get back to working with kids.

“I thought it would be nice to share my time off with children and adults who are really interested in exploring art. I like that (I) can help people grow,” Barnett-Gudde said.

Kids will play in the clay, hand-building small items. They will also make functional and food-safe dishes. The goal is for students to finish the item in one class so that she can fire it and have it ready for them to glaze in the next class. Students get to take home and keep what they make in class.

Barnett-Gudde said that developing skills in art can carry over into other life skills. She said it makes children more aware of their surroundings, and helps them find new ways to solve problems.

“It’s a whole different mindset and experience. Doors open within themselves,” Barnett-Gudde said.

She also teaches small group adult classes for all skill levels. She teaches sculpture fundamentals, hand building techniques, and glazing for beginners. Advanced students can have a place to work on their techniques and learn new ones.

Barnett-Gudde said her clay classes are the only ones of their kind in Turlock. She mixes her own clay and fires her own finished products all in her back yard. The yurt is just one part of the large work space that Barnett-Gudde and her husband John Barnett built at their Turlock home. Both Burnett and Barnett-Gudde use the space to create their own works of art. Many examples of their work are displayed in the work space, in their home, and in the yard. In addition to the kilns, work shop, and sinks, they also have a chicken coop right outside the yurt.

“It’s kind of nice to hear the chickens out there while I work. I’m just glad the neighbors have not complained about that rooster,” Barnett-Gudde joked.

Yurts are used as homes by nomadic tribes because they can be moved quickly from one place to another. However, Barnett-Gudde’s yurt is far from the bare-bones tents it was modeled after. The structure is wired for electricity and has working air conditioning. She constructed a canvas covered table inside of the yurt to transform it into a classroom.

Classes start this week, but enrollment is ongoing and Barnett will continue to take students until the classes fill. Her children’s groups meet every other Wednesday and adult groups meet every Tuesday. For more information or to register for class call Titia Barnett-Gudde at 634-4535 or e-mail

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.