Ceramic students show the fruits of their fire

Mud and minds over afterglow, equals glazed and confused.

Hunter Hawkens works at the potter’s wheel during Rich Conover’s advanced ceramics class at South Whidbey High School. Hawkens will be showing his ceramic artwork along with his classmates at the “Formula of Fire” show at the Front Room Gallery in the Bayview Cash Store. The show runs May 31 through June 3.

Mud and minds over afterglow, equals glazed and confused.

That is the equation dreamt up by the students in South Whidbey High School’s advanced ceramics class, and it appears they do indeed glow when they have mud on their minds.

The group of young artists will open their ceramics show “Formula of Fire” from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 31 in the Front Room Gallery of the Bayview Cash Store.

As for the glowing part, speaking with some of the artists before the show made it clear a certain amount of impassioned inspiration was afoot.

There was not only a daily fire in the kiln but their teacher, Rich Conover, has put a fire in their collective belly.

“We’ve all really matured since the days of beginning ceramics,” Kelsie Fitzpatrick said.

“Learning the process of ceramics is a lot of hard work and you may spend a lot of time on a piece that you may end up not liking. But I’ve had a big jump in my expectations and the class has come together as a team.”

That’s part of the process of kiln-fired pottery-making and Fitzpatrick was obviously impressed by how far she had come in even just one semester of the advanced class.

Fellow artist Quill Bage agreed.

“Mr. Conover has been driving us to come together as a group and we have,” Bage said.

The students explained that the process of making a ceramic piece involves the firing of the kiln and the bisque fire and takes a team working together every time they enter the studio.

“I personally get a lot of influence from the people working around me,” Emily Jacobson-Ross said.

“I get a lot of inspiration from the other artists in the class.”

She is also heavily inspired by nature and has been exploring the relationship between vessels and flowers.

She looks at the work of professional artists like Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist who produces sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings.

“It’s a feeling his work gives me. I try to take that feeling back to the studio and apply it to my work,” she said.

A conversation about artistic influences ensued and the students said Conover was fairly adamant about looking outside themselves to feed the fire.

Every year, the students have to research at least one artist and the students explained that Conover pushes them to look at other work and to continually see what’s being done in the art world.

“Conover has a kind of tough love with us,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve learned to appreciate everything and that the mistake is my teacher.”

Nichelle Brown is another student of ceramics who happens to love her camera. She photographed her fellow classmates for this article.

It is apparent that she is drawn to the sphere of the lens and how that focuses her vision of the world, but she has been inspired by the ceramics class, as well and said she is enjoying creating figurative sculptures.

Inspiration, Brown said, is what helps you to realize what’s going on in the world and to take in both the happiness and sadness of the world at the same time.

“There’s a mindset we have as a class now,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Mentally, we have a drive to exceed what we’ve done; the need to create something beautiful; a space to fill,” she said.

The show will display more than 65 pieces of ceramic work including vessels, wall hangings, sculptures and mantel pieces.

“Formula of Fire” opens at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 31 with an artists’ reception until 4 p.m. The show continues from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, June 1 through June 3.

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