Artist works the wheel, field

July 10, 2003 12:00 am

By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

Whether teaching art in the Healthy Start After School Program at Avery Middle School, throwing pots at her family's Quyle Kilns or weeding in the family vineyard, Delores Quyle Mast loves getting dirt under her fingernails.

She has painted with watercolors since she was a child. Now, as an adult, she teaches children to paint and introduces them to the magic of clay.

"The kids are usually amazed by watching me throw on the potter's wheel," she said. "Watching how the clay can be formed into a bowl so quickly. Often, I let them wet their hands and feel the clay. They love it. It's therapeutic. It feels like nothing they've ever felt before."

Delores Quyle was 2 years old in 1955, when her parents brought her to Calaveras County. They had been teaching art in Stockton — at Stockton High School and the University of the Pacific — and also had a budding pottery and ceramics business. They decided to move to land Delores' grandfather owned on Highway 4 near Bryce Station, which had been a stage stop in the early 1900s.

Delores' grandfather had bought the 97 acres from Mr. Bryce and retired on it. Her parents joined him.

Delores grew up on that land, and, except for her years in college — Modesto Junior College, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and California State University, Chico — she has always lived there.

She grew up learning the art that would later become her life.

"We never had a TV when I was a kid," she said. "We didn't get our first TV until 1979. So my mom and sisters and I did a lot of art things. I grew up in the ceramic business with my parents."

In 1976, she married Stuart Mast on the property, with her father officiating. The Masts have two children: Leda, who is 20 and attending California State University, Sonoma, and Robert, 12, an Avery Middle School student.

For 20 years, the Masts have worked manufacturing clay for other potters. She said they get their clay from Valley Springs and Ione and bring it to Quyle Kilns for processing.