About 15 years ago, a friend of Cass Johnson’s convinced him to join a pottery class.
“He dropped out after five or six weeks, but I was hooked,” Johnson says. “I just kept on taking classes.”
On Jan. 28, Johnson saw his dream come true when he opened District Clay, a new 2,000-square-foot ceramic and pottery studio in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood (2414 Douglas Ave., N.E.). Johnson says it’s the first new ceramic teaching studio to open in D.C. in 20 years. Classes are offered in sculpture, tile and more and the space includes several kilns, wheels and other pottery accoutrements. Classes will be offered during the day, evenings and weekends. A discount is being offered this month in relation to the grand opening (details at districtclay.com).
Johnson says he sensed a demand when he realized other studios in the city frequently were full.
“There is something almost soulful about turning a lump of clay into an elegant vase or mug,” the 54-year-old gay Redondo Beach, Calif., native says. “If you think about it, there are not many opportunities to make something with your own hands. I find it a very relaxing atmosphere, one where the outside world just fades away.”
Johnson came to Washington 24 years ago and worked as a lobbyist. He and husband, Matt, live in Woodley Park. He enjoys gardening, bicycling, dog walking, reading, bread making and, of course, pottery, in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since I was 18. The hardest person to tell was my mother, who broke down and cried. She thought I would not have a happy life. In contrast, my Dad was great and very supportive.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Harvey Milk, because of his passion.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
This is going to date me but it has got to be Tracks from way back when. I remember a time when I couldn’t imagine not going to Tracks on a weekend.
Describe your dream wedding.
My wedding was my dream wedding. Matt and I got married in Ptown and honestly a number of people said it was their favorite wedding too. We sent people on a treasure hunt, I made tea bowls for everyone and we gave them out dressed in kimonos and then we had a lovely and tearful wedding ceremony at the Red Roof Inn. Wouldn’t do anything different except stopping all the rain that weekend.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I love making pots. That’s why I opened District Clay.
What historical outcome would you change?
I’d make it so that Al Gore officially beat George Bush. Then we would not have had Iraq or a gay bashing White House.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Cher in Las Vegas
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
About opening District Clay!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“What a Wonderful World It Is”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Encourage more people to become gay.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that there is a life force that is beyond the physical world and we will discover what it is when we get there.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My partner Matt. We have been in love since our second date and have never had a bad day. It sounds impossible but it’s true. It is miraculous for me.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That gay men have to be effeminate.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Milk.” Great political movie.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I don’t know what the most overrated custom is but the most underrated is hugging. People should hug more.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I would love to have a piece of my pottery in a major museum collection.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had started doing pottery at 18 rather than at 40. At 18, I had no real idea what I wanted to do.
I came here to get involved in public policy. I had no idea at the time what a great city Washington is. Coming from L.A., where you had to drive everywhere, to Washington, a city of real neighborhoods, was mind blowing in a very positive way.