Ceramic creations lead to national competition

What do a teapot and a vase have in common?

They are getting two high school students some well-deserved, national recognition.

Senior Eric Smits and junior Brooks Waller, who both attend Oak Harbor High School, were honored to have their ceramics creations accepted into an exhibition sponsored by the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts.

Of the 900 ceramics items submitted from students across the nation, only 150 made the cut.

Their items were viewed and critiqued by professionals during a show that took place recently in Pittsburgh.

Smits has been part of the school’s pottery program for four years. He said he enjoys producing ceramics because it’s relaxing.

He created a black rose vase for the conference. He said the vase grew out of playing around with flower forms and the sgraffito technique.

“It looks like it’s cracking out from underneath the black. It’s sleek,” Smits said.

His black rose vase entry marks the first time Smits has entered one of his pieces into such an exhibition. He said he was hesitant to do it at first, but is now glad to have some national exposure for his work.

Waller is newer to ceramics, having started his first class last fall.

“I just thought it would be fun to take pottery,” Waller said. He got the idea from several of his friends, who took and enjoyed the classes taught by teacher Frank Jacques.

He caught on quickly and soon produced a teapot he titled “The Riveter,” where he used a trompel’oeil technique that gave his piece a more metallic look.

Waller is planning to continue taking ceramics classes next year.

Jacques said a company on Lummi Island called Giffin Tech offered to pay for part of Smits’ trip. The company produces a device that helps artists trim pots. And he’s looking toward the community to help with the remainder.

Waller didn’t attend the exhibition, saying he’s too busy running hurdles for the track team. He is a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and football.

Smits is planning on finding a job once school is out so he can earn money to further his education, and he also plans to keep working in ceramics.

Waller, with more than a year to go before graduating, is debating where he will attend college. He is considering the United States Air Force Academy, where his two older brothers attended school, or the University of Washington.

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