Pottery wheels turn clay into relief effort

Pottery X student Andrian Jimenez puts finishing touches on a bowl on March 25 in Frank Jacques
Pottery X student Andrian Jimenez puts finishing touches on a bowl on March 25 in Frank Jacques' class at Oak Harbor High School.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Despite the lack of shiny red capes and easy access to supernatural powers, each day people are given the tools to change the world for the better. In Oak Harbor High School teacher Frank Jacques’ case, those tools came in the form of 25 students, 16 pottery wheels and one class period.

After the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, what started as a lesson on production pottery turned into a fundraiser for disaster relief. Last Tuesday, Jacques challenged his Pottery X students to throw 100 bowls in less than an hour.

When Jacques first came up with the challenge, he simply wanted his students to experience a different side of the ceramic world, but after speaking with some community and staff members, a campaign was launched to sell the bowls to support victims in Japan.

Jacques said people often feel called to help when they hear of disasters striking or neighbors going hungry but feel too small or insignificant to make a difference.

“So what is a person to do when they feel overwhelmed?” Jacques said. “What is a person to do? ... I thought we have an art room in a high school. Well, a potter can make bowls and people can eat out of bowls. That’s something.”

When Jacques’ students were given the task, some didn’t think they’d be able to reach their goal, but instead of producing just 100 bowls, the students made 130.

“It was pretty crazy, everybody was running around,” senior Alexandra Cole said. “I was happy to be benefitting something.”

Cole’s classmate, senior Samantha Schortzmann, said she was wondering what they were going to do with all of the bowls at first, but was also glad to hear they were going toward a good cause. Additionally, Schortzmann said the project helped expand her skill set.

“It was the first time I had got to work with red clay, so that was exciting,” she said.

After the students completed the bowls, they set about firing and glazing them. Jacques said he’s pleased with how everything came together and said pottery is a great medium for aiding in the effort because the Japanese have so much influence on modern ceramics.

“We can do this weird thing,” Jacques said about the 100 bowl challenge, “and if other people value it, we can turn it into a force for the common good.”

Pottery available at art showcase
From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at the Coupeville Rec Hall, the 100-plus pieces of pottery created to benefit the Japanese relief effort will be on sale at the 2011 Showcase of the Arts, the all-island high school art show put on by the American Association of University Women, Whidbey Island Branch. This will be the first time the students are selling work at the event.



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