“Come Clay With Us” was an invitation in the email that Joel Jolly received and which prompted this story. The author of the email is Ms. Vartanian, the art teacher at JET Middle School. Joel Jolly is the chair of the Edgefield County Public School Foundation, which gave Ms. Vartanian a Vision Grant (money) for her school work, and she reported what she had done with the money.
According to Joel Jolly, this is a good time to tell this story because they are beginning their campaign to raise funds for the next Vision Grants – money appropriated to deserving teachers (competing for the money) to help them in their work.
A meeting with Ms. Vartanian in her art classroom – where it was visible to the visitors what the students were learning – gave those attending (members of the Foundation Board and the reporter for this story) evidence of the “magic” of money put into the hands of an inspired and capable teacher. Some twenty students in her class were forming pinch pots, coil bowls and slab designs, all from the clay supplies that the Vision money afforded.
“Ms. V” as she is called, already had the skills for teaching pottery and she actually had the tools; add those to the setting (large art room with great light and work tables) and a kiln (that is a subject addressed at the end) available for the students, but no supplies, like clay and color glazes. Because a Vision Grant was made to Ms. V, she was able to add, like “magic,” the elements of clay and “paint” so that the students can learn through experience about potters, in particular Dave the Potter who is celebrated more today in this area and over the world than ever.
This is a learning experience that cannot be matched by just reading about potters. These students have felt the clay in their hands, smelled the clay as it absorbs the glaze (they put the glaze on wet clay, as observed) and have become more fully aware of its possibilities. The story of hand building at JET, that came as a part of a teacher’s wish to give more to her students, is basically the story of a number of other teachers in the system, having received grants to aid their students. The stories will be told in time.
And about that kiln: it is in good shape. Ms. V COULD fire all the students’ work so they have the complete experience from idea to conclusion. However, the kiln has no ventilation. (Anyone know how to make that happen?) Maybe next year the students can have the complete experience.