Beginners sculpt new skills
Julia Galloway, a professional potter and juror for the competition this year, chose Brianna Lucas’ “Cactus Teapot” as a winner. (Ellice Taylor/West Jordan Middle)
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By Jet Burnham | firstname.lastname@example.org
The art pieces of four beginning ceramics students from West Jordan Middle School were juried for the National K-12 Ceramics Exhibition in Portland, Oregon. Ellice Taylor, ceramics teacher at WJMS who selected the pieces for submission, teaches her students life skills as they learn to create winning pieces.
“The key to success is to be open-minded, be willing to try it, and if it doesn’t work the first time, to try it again,” Taylor said. She teaches that sculpting requires a lot of trial and error.
Diana Rincon said most of the time her pieces turn out differently than she expects. She was able to achieve her best glazing results yet on her mug, which was chosen for the competition.
Brianna Lucas’ piece, "Cactus Teapot," was one of 158 that were selected out of more than 1,400 submission as a winner and was on display at the Winner’s Exhibit in Oregon on March 23.
Brianna’s piece was inspired by her love of cacti; she uses them in many of her art pieces. She also had a drawing featuring a cactus in the school art fair in held in April.
“Sometimes as an artist, you just thoroughly explore a subject matter from all different media and different ways of looking at it,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who has a degree in sculpture and ceramics, teaches her students sculpting techniques and then lets them explore how to apply them. Students said she never does anything for them; she lets them work through their own problems and process.
Zach Both didn’t even consider himself an artist when he signed up for ceramics class last semester.
“I’ve never been good at drawing,” Zach said. “I’ve always been good at building stuff. When I got into ceramics, it really just came naturally and easily to me, and I was just able to build and create.”
Zach utilized class time as well as after school hours to build and add detailing to his teapot, which was styled to look like a house. He said sculpting can be frustrating. Often pieces break several times during the creation process.
“The only guarantee in ceramics is that something will break or not turn out the way you want it to,” Taylor tells her students.
Taylor said sculpting requires problem-solving skills. She believes this is an example of how fine arts skills benefit students in other areas of their lives.
Taylor has worked in the technology industry for many years. This is her first year teaching art and CTE classes at WJMS. She wants to incorporate technology into her ceramics classroom with a 3-D printer that extrudes clay instead of plastic. It will cost about $5,000, which she hopes to get through a grant or a sponsor.
“It would be fun to combine technology and 21st century skills with these very ancient techniques,” said Taylor.
Victoria Nguyen enjoys art and is taking several art classes, but she plans to be a computer programmer. Taylor insists that art can help with those goals.
“If you’re going to write code, you need to be creative,” Taylor said. “You have to follow the rules and there’s a structure, but you have to be able to think outside the box—that’s how you come up with new ideas.”
She believes employers need creative thinkers who can problem-solve, and that’s why art classes that teach these skills are so beneficial to students.
Art also teaches students to not give up when things don’t work out the first time. She said each of the students who had winning pieces have also had pieces that failed.
“You just have to keep trying, and eventually you’ll get something that you can be proud of,” said Taylor.
Zach plans to keep trying. Even though he is not enrolled in a ceramics class this semester, he spends time after school to continue sculpting pieces. One of those pieces won the top prize at the school art fair in April. Taylor plans to submit this piece to the national competition next year.