Creative Therapy: Senior Center Open Ceramics Studio

Story and Photos by Diane Andrews

City resident Fred Gong has been creating ceramic art at the Santa Clara Senior Center open ceramics studio for about three years.

“It’s kind of therapeutic when you’re making your pieces, when you’re prepping the clay. Then when you’re finished with your outcome, it’s rewarding. But if it doesn’t work, you just smash it up and start all over,” said Gong at last November’s Holiday Craft Faire at the Santa Clara Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St.

“I give a lot of my ceramic art pieces to my family. So they know every year what they’re going to get,” said Gong.

Items not earmarked for Gong’s family were up for sale at the craft faire, along with decorative and useful items—from dishes and platters to bowls and planters—by other ceramics studio artists. Teacher Eva Carrender has overseen the ceramics studio, which can accommodate up to 20, for three years.

“The pieces are hand built not thrown art,” said Carrender. “It’s an open studio, so participants make whatever they want. It lets them express their creativity.”

“Seniors that are thinking and creating—doing things with their brains—have fewer problems with Alzheimer’s,” continued Carrender, touting the value of creative endeavor.

A Santa Clara University program partners student volunteers with the Senior Center. Third year SCU student Brandon Villanueva, a psychology/biology major, volunteered at the ceramics studio during the Fall 2017 quarter.

“I like interacting with the locals who attend the class, holding conversations and learning from them about ceramics and about their lives,” said Villanueva. “Being a psychology major and taking the Psychology of Aging, I’m able to see how certain life-style choices affect people’s lives. Being creative and imaginative helps memory preservation.”

The open ceramics studio, Room 149, is available to seniors (50 or older) of all skill levels for a fee. Drop-in hours: 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. For information, call the Senior Center at (408) 615-3170 or visit the City website:

“We actually call it our ceramics club. We have so much fun,” said Carrender. “It’s so relaxing to do ceramics—it de-stresses you at the end of the work day. I love it.”