Ceramicist finds community in Astoria

Audrey Long works on a new piece in her ceramics studio.

Audrey Long moved here in time for winter — the kind of winter that makes people who moved here in the summer regret their life choices.

But a year and a half later, Long is still here.

Her wife has family in Cannon Beach and Long, who had previously lived in Miami, liked being in Astoria, a smaller city. In bigger cities, she said, “You’re just a number there. You never get to know people.”

In Miami, Long once held a door open for someone and the person sneered at her, “You’re not from here, are you?”

Long is part of Astoria Makers, a group of artisans and craftspeople who plan to open a communal space to accommodate everything from woodworking to welding and screen printing. Long will head up the organization’s ceramics studio, where she plans to teach, organize workshops, help with events and maintain her own work.

Long has worked in ceramics since middle school. She took other art classes and contemplated going into graphic design so she could “make a living” but still do art. But she realized how important the tactile aspect of ceramics was to her. Her favorite things to make are jars and cups, items that are useful and beautiful but that also touch us.

“It’s the most intimate relationship with an object,” Long said. You raise the cup, you touch the rim to your lips, you drink.

“It’s the whole process of putting it to your mouth and trusting where it’s come from is not going to harm you. It’s there for good. Then having the quality of a handmade object. … If you wake up and you’re drinking out of a cup that was given to you by somebody special, handmade or not, it always feels more comforting.”

Though she hopes to get more involved with the community down the road, for now she is taking her time easing into commitments. She volunteers for Filling Empty Bellies and joins Coast Community Radio programmer Liam Dunne on his show, Sonic Sunspots.

Still, she has jumped feet first into the city’s local drag scene and does not hesitate to proclaim herself Astoria’s drag king. All hail Arty Choke Cums, first of his name. Long performed at the New Year’s Eve Dragalution show as a member of the Cums Family led by a towering, voluminously coiffed and glamorous matriarch Daylight Cums, aka Astoria native, chef and massage therapist Marco Davis. Long grew up in a small Michigan town where being accepted as Arty Choke Cums would have been unheard of.

The acceptance she found in Astoria has been startling.

“I knew there was Astoria Pride and the Q Center,” she said. “But I didn’t realize at Pride that I’d be dancing next to somebody who just got off his fishing boat.”

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