From making delicate pinch pots to sculpting coffee mugs, East’s ceramic program offers many different opportunities to be creative. Each student creates their own, individualized pieces of art due to the creative freedom given by teacher Jennifer Hensley.
In Beginning Ceramics class, students start with raw clay, making it into a pinch pot by sculpting a half circle with their hands, pinching the tops and letting it dry out. After the pinch pot project, students go on to make creatures, bowls, and sculptures. Hensley puts no limit on how students interpret projects – creatures can be anything they imagine, from a sleeping cat to a fire breathing dragon.
This is Hensley’s first year at East, and she is ecstatic about the opportunity. Hensley came to East after having her own art gallery. She has made and sold some of her own art pieces as has experience with digital design, ceramics and 3D design. Teaching kids how to create art with no limit on their imagination is something she enjoys because many students will never have this opportunity again.
“In college, all I wanted to do was to throw on the wheel and create digital design graphics,” Hensley said. “I tell myself I’m going to spend 30 minutes on the wheel, and next thing you know it was two hours later.”
Junior Sophie Thiede is currently in advanced ceramics, and has taken away many things from the class like, “throwing on the wheel”. This process requires wet clay and sculpting it on a spinning plate to create a bowl, vase or cup. The students’ first task with the wheel is making a six centimeter cylinder. The difficulty comes from having to center the clay perfectly using hands and upper body strength for up to 30 minutes.
“I am a perfectionist, but I have come to learn that it won’t always be perfect and sometimes you just have to work with it,” Thiede said. “It has now become fun for me and basically therapeutic.”
Students are then able to move on to more difficult projects like textured items. Thiede is now able to experiment with different glazes on her projects. Glazing is putting the piece back in the kiln after it had been fired once and painted. Thiede made a pot with a glaze that has mini rock-like objects in it and it expands as it is fired in order to give her pot many different colors.
Thiede, along with many other students, loves ceramics and the creativity that is tied along with it. With broad instructions, students are able to make their own individualized, creative projects. This freedom often results in students becoming more invested in their projects, since it is something they have chosen.
“Most kids don’t get to experience throwing on a wheel, or making sculptures in general,” Hensley said. “Ceramics is just a fun place that I love and I love to watch the students enjoy it too.”