|THE STAMFORD TIMES|
The Stamford Times
December 15, 2002
|STAMFORD - When corporate executive Morty Bachar was asked to lay-off 50% within his company two years ago, he realized he wasn't happy with corporate life and went one step further and added his own name to the list. When his company refused his resignation, he asked for a year off.
"I came to a juncture where I was reevaluating myself and my life," Bachar said. It was during that time that he discovered pottery. Bachar started to work at home on various pottery projects and received many compliments on his work. Friends and acquaintances asked him to teach them about pottery and an idea was born.
Now the self-taught pottery owns the bright and friendly studio Lakeside Pottery located on Newfield Avenue in Stamford. What began as one-to-one instruction, soon blossomed to a full schedule of classes and workshops that consume Bachar. But these days, instead of wearing a corporate uniform, Bachar is dressed casually with clay marking scattered across his cloths and a smile spread across his face. "It was a success the day we opened the doors, and profitable within three months." He said. "At that time I made a commitment that I would never forget what got me here." Since the day the shop was profitable, Bachar has earmarked 15 percent of his profits to offer free workshops and classes to charitable organizations and schools.
Once that decision was made, Bachar began looking for worthy organizations. That's when he came upon Kids In Crisis, a Greenwich based agency that provides crisis intervention and emergency shelter for children of all ages. "I was touched by what they do and the difference they make in these kids lives," Bachar said. "They have so many wonderfull, smart and curious kids that have just had some bad luck."
Now, Bachar and Roger Baumann, an art professor at the College of Mt. St. Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y. , dedicate two hours a week to the Kids In Crisis group as they learn about pottery in professional setting. "Clay is a great equalizer. Everyone is in the same place. It's great therapeutic tool," Baumann said. "With Morty's and my guidance, these kids experience success and that makes them feel great."
One of the kids the agency is currently housing is 13-year-old Samantha, who was not getting along with her family and was removed from her home. Kids in Crisis "provided a place for me. I was safe. They feed me, gave me school stuff and everything else I needed," Samantha said, as she shaped the large slab of gray clay in front of her. "Morty, can you help me shape this for a tray?" Samantha asked, as she evened out the two sides of her now rectangle of clay. AS Bachar made his way across the room he hummed along to the song playing on the stereo. He discussed Samantha intentions and the two systematically decided the next logical step in making the shallow tray symmetrical.
Bachar's engineering background became obvious through his questioning and deductive reasoning as he worked with Samantha. " I teach and explain, giving them small chewable steps, just like an engineering class. People progress fastest that way." Bachar said. Bachar doesn't believe in having a strict curriculum, instead he lets the dynamics of the students dictate the direction of the class. As they work with the clay they are forced to use their knowledge of other subject matter to satisfy their questions and curiosity.
Kids in Crisis counselor Abby Sharp said Bachar is very patient with the kids and is yet another positive role model whom they respect. "They really look forward to coming. I think it's more about the process than the finished product," sharp said. "[Bachar] shows us new things every time we come. He's giving us a chance and teaching us how art works. It's pretty cool," Samantha said as she moved on to glazing a small bowl with pair of tulips on the side.
Baumann attributes much of the learning to the atmosphere created by Bachar. "Here we have the best of everything, a supportive and nurturing environment and we get to make art and talk about artistic ideas," Baumann said. "Being a teenager is hard enough. We don't judge them on their home to school life. Art is all about expression and you don't want to stifle that, especially at this age."
Michael, 16, who has always enjoyed art classes, has learned new techniques in potting and on a higher level than in his previous art classes. "It's really mellow here," he said. "Morty has a tendency of going into depth about things but he's nice and calm. He never yells. He tries to teach us everything that is good."
For Shari Shapiro, executive director of Kids In Crisis, the experience for the kids is invaluable. "I see kids feel more positively about themselves by the entire experience and look forward to seeing Morty and his staff. The projects are really secondary. They feel a part of something bigger. At places like Lakeside Pottery, the kids feel very much part of the community and like any other teenager," she said. "Something that starts so simplistic really starts to enhance relationships in so many ways."
The relationships Bachar has formed and the fun he has had while reaching out to the children is what reaffirms his decision to leave his corporate executive position. "That's what it's all about, the fuel to may passion. If it wasn't for that (community service) work, there would be no other business." He said.