"Ninety nine percent of the people we put clay into the hands of really connect to it," McCann said. "It's so tangible."

Although Derstine is gone, McCann still has an old hand working at Clayworks — Deborah Bedwell, founding director for 32 years before Schulman. Bedwell teaches at Clayworks, and is president-elect of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.

"She knows a lot of people," McCann said. "It's good to see her stepping into that next role."

It was Bedwell who took charge and led a board of trustees meeting to discuss Schulman's resignation and early plans to search for his successor.

"This has been a painful period for Clayworks," the board said in a statement at the time.

"I was here through most of it," McCann said, attributing fiscal troubled to the recession in 2008. Since then, "the struggle has continued," she said. "I think it's a challenge all nonprofits face."

As former development director, development associate, summer camp director and teacher, McCann, who has worked at Clayworks since 2008, is a good fit, said Mary Cloonan, exhibitions director.

"We've known her for years," said Cloonan, of Mid-Govans. "She taught here. She's been ingrained here, has friends, networks (with other arts groups) and knows the city. She loves it. She's excited and interested. There's a sincere passion. It's infectious."

And Cloonan said McCann's promotions has been good for morale on the staff of 12, as well as 25 interns last year.

"It's a relief on so many levels. There's a lot more laughing," she said.