The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Ceramics gives students creative freedom and hopes to recover from recent loss of interest

Emily Wu
Sofia Hoffman and Elisa Pattullo work on glazing their decorative coil pot on Oct. 11.

After exploring ceramics through Ceramics 1 last year, sophomore Emily Haworth decided to continue up the path to Ceramics 2 with teacher Nikki Rodriguez. For Haworth, time spent in ceramics is full of fun and creative freedom. Within projects like decorative clay pots or skulls, she especially likes how students have the freedom to personalize designs according to their style. 

“Everyone’s projects turn out differently,” Haworth said. “People can put their spin on anything as simple as a cup. I also like that I can make gifts for my friends or make things that are useful for me.”

For example, the latest skull project allows students to customize their skulls with hats, flower patterns, or vibrant colors. 

 A decade ago and before, under the direction of longtime teacher Leah Aguayo, the ceramics program at the school used to be very popular and had multiple periods and dozens of students. After Aguayo left the school, the program started to have fewer students and fewer classes. 

This year, Ceramics 1, 2 and 3 and AP 3D Art and Design classes have now been combined into two large classes of 32 students each. However, Rodriguez hopes to expand the program and increase student interest. Higher participation allows the Ceramics program to offer more classes and share the creative experience.

Beginners in Ceramics 1 are currently learning basics such as pinch pottery, coil building and slab building using both hand kneading techniques and machines like slab rollers; students at higher levels are assigned similar projects as the Ceramics 1 students, but with more difficult criteria. So far, students have worked on making and glazing pinch pots, coil pots, sculptures of skulls and paint palettes, as well as personal projects in their free time.
During class, Rodriguez also gives lessons on how to use clay and glaze safely. She emphasizes caution when handling clay pieces with dust as silica dust can be toxic when inhaled.

“I tell everyone to avoid shaving off clay dust from dry clay, and if they notice dust in their workspace, they can spray it down with a bit of water and wipe it away with a wet sponge,” Rodriguez said. 

In efforts to be environmentally conscious, students also wash ceramic glaze into waste buckets that are picked up by a hazardous waste facility. 

Ceramics 1 students start with hand-building at the beginning of the year and will eventually start throwing clay on the wheel by second semester. While students work on projects, Rodriguez demonstrates molding and glazing techniques such as coil building and bubble glazing under her camera and projects it onto a board for students to follow along. 

“I’m more of a visual learner when it comes to ceramics, so this helps me learn better,” Haworth said.

Senior Saara Saini said Ceramics provides a collaborative and relaxing environment for students to be creative — while they sometimes need to meet size requirements and other basic guidelines, students are generally free to do whatever they want within the bounds of a project. After Rodriguez presents a new project — like a coil pot — students have the freedom to wrap the coils into any design of their choosing, such as braids and swirls, and glaze it in any color. 

“It’s really fun and collaborative because we can sit and discuss with friends,” Saini said. “It’s nice because you get to meet and learn from people of different grades who also have different interests.”

Donate to The Saratoga Falcon

Your donation will support the student journalists of Saratoga High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Saratoga Falcon