Passion for Pottery

Ceramics teacher Stacey Larson had to get creative this school year


One of Stacey Larson’s Ceramics class meets during a zoom class.

“No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.”

These words from Greek philosopher Plutarch, while first uttered thousands of years ago, still ring true today. And in the art department of South High, students do much more than wet their clay.

Virtual learning has challenged teachers of all subjects, but perhaps none have been forced to get more creative than Stacey Larson, who teaches Ceramics 1 & 2, among other art classes. 

“When I first heard that classes were going to be online, I wasn’t sure if Ceramics would still be happening,” said senior Jane Rundahl. 

Many people, were they in Larson’s shoes, would have cursed their luck or simply given up. However, after some brainstorming, she knew exactly what she needed to do.

“I knew that we needed to send clay home, no question. So I started making a mental list of what else my students would need if I sent clay home…the list got long fast,” she said.

Once students had their materials at home, it was time to get down to business. Unfortunately, other challenges arose.

“I laid out old newspapers on my kitchen counter. It would get very dusty, and I wish I had more space,” said senior Stephanie Hooker. 

Students, upon setting up their own personal art studio, also found it difficult to get help in an online setting. Thankfully, Larson scheduled individual meeting time with all of her students and was able to coach them through complex projects. 

“There were times during the class when I did struggle, but with the help of Ms. Larson in breakout rooms, we were all able to get help and resolve issues easily,” said Rundahl. 

While there were a lot of challenges to overcome, Larson said she knew it would be worth it to her students. 

“It’s been great having the opportunity to provide time for students to do work that is not on their chrome books. Additionally, I think it’s special for students to make something they’re proud of and can take with them to remember the positive experience!” said Larson. 

Hooker said she loved her Ceramics class time because, unlike most of their other courses, she was able to create something tangible. 

“I always looked forward to Ceramics throughout the day. It was definitely my favorite class this quarter!” said Hooker. 

Along with giving them a much-needed break from their screens, students created projects that they could keep and be proud of. 

“We made bowls, a mug, candle holders, a vase, and a hanging plant holder. I’m most proud of my vase, which was one of the most advanced projects and dealt with a lot of building and clay,” said Hooker. 

In addition to the required projects, two students harnessed their creative energy to take on additional challenges.

“Morgan Brinkmann made a slab box with intricately painted Mallard ducks, and Morrin Parish made a full tea set,” said Larson.

Not only did students mold their clay into elaborate artwork, but after finishing were able to make their projects even more special. Ms. Larson worked hard to give her students the full pottery experience, offering an optional drop-off outside her room so that she could put the finishing touches on pieces in the clay oven.

“Students would leave their projects in a box or bag in the drop-off area. After I fired the work, students chose from about 120 different glaze options. It was time-consuming, but so worth it to see the projects come alive with different colored glazes,” said Larson. 

Ms. Larson’s dedication to the Ceramics virtual experience is yet another testament to how hard South high teachers have worked during online learning. In the tough and confusing world we live in today, it can be relaxing to unplug and focus on something that you can control–art. 

“I recommend everyone take Ceramics either online or in-person. I had an amazing experience, and it really helped me get through some stressful Zoom days,” said Rundahl.