Ceramics class gives back by making bowls and mugs for others
From second to sixth period, Ceramics teacher Joshua Gwiazda’s five advanced ceramics classes mold, sculpt, spin, design, glaze, and fire their clay creations in room 508. Sandy, tan clumps of clay cluster the room, half-molded and waiting to be turned into whatever the sculptor intends. Each sculptor’s product is unique, shaped by their hands and the imagination controlling them. The creations of this class do not only solely reflect what the students want; both teacher and students combine forces to create ceramics that benefit the community.
The class does several projects every year that benefit others: they made bowls and mugs for the homeless, a wildlife rescue organization, and English teacher Matt Carroll, who lost most of his belongings in a house fire earlier this year.
“The best thing you can do as a human is to stop thinking about yourself and help others in their lives and endeavors. Helping and supporting with someone else’s goals is just amazing,” said senior Nolan Binkele, who has taken the class for two years.
Binkele and about six others joined forces last year to make over 50 bowls in support for the homeless. The bowls were donated to the Empty Bowls fundraiser, founded by ECHO (El Camino Homeless Organization), which is an organization in Atascadero serving the homeless in the North County. The Empty Bowls fundraiser is intended to raise money to benefit the people living in the shelter by providing them with housing, food, and career/job guidance. Empty Bowls received about 500 bowls last spring from 100 plus volunteers. Along with the bowls, knitted goods were also made for the fundraiser by local volunteers.
On the day of the event, patrons who bought a ticket received a soup and bread meal, followed by the opportunity to select a bowl, potholder, soup bowl cozy, and other knitted items created by the volunteers. Cuesta College, PRHS, AHS, Boyd and Bradley Art Studio, Creston Elementary School, and Atascadero Fine Arts Academy all donated bowls to Empty Bowls, as well as three individual sculptors.
“Those that have participated have felt good about supporting efforts to feed and shelter the less fortunate in our community,” said Gwiazda, whose words reflect the very idea of the project.
ECHO is the only homeless shelter in all of North County. Each evening 50 beds and four family rooms shelter individuals, as well as families with children. ECHO has been open every night since it was founded in 2001.
The ceramics participants from PRHS helped the shelter to be maintained and operated with a donation of about 10 percent of the fundraiser’s bowls. Those who helped enjoyed the project and plan to participate again this upcoming spring.
“It [helping others] is my passion and I’m glad I’m able to not just benefit myself but also the people around me,” said Binkele, who has participated in multiple other charity projects.
Currently, the advanced ceramics students were given the option to contribute to the making of bowls and mugs for a Pacific Wildlife Rescue, a wildlife rescue organization based in SLO. The sculptors mold the bowls and mugs, design decorations of animals or their prints on the ceramics, fire and glaze them, then send the creations off to the organization so they can be sold to make profit for the organization.
The students are allowed the time to create these beneficial ceramics because of the laid back environment of the class. At the beginning of the year, several projects are assigned to be completed by the end of the year. The tasks may be completed in whatever order, at whatever speed the student wishes. This freedom allows the students the opportunity to participate in the charity projects so often offered in the class.
“It’s a pretty carefree environment: you’re allowed to make whatever you want with the clay, and everyone is kind of off in their own world working on their projects,” said senior Nick Reeves, who is taking his second year of ceramics.
Ceramics is a class in which students are allowed to explore their creativity through sculpting, at whatever pace they please. It’s a break from a busy school day, having a lump of clay slouching in front of the students. What they create is up to them, whether it be for themselves, friends, family, or charity. Whatever the cause, whenever the time, this class has the opportunity to not only benefit the students, but the community and the citizens living within it.