At Trinity Episcopal School, students are given both the opportunity and the freedom to explore their passion for ceramics-and they're producing stunning results.
Above: Rhiannon Woody decorates an earthenware platter
with Speedball earthenware glazes.
The motto and guiding principle of Trinity Episcopal
School in Richmond, Va., is Discover Your Path
The school seeks out students in grades 8-12 who are creative and often a bit
non-conformist, and encourages them to pursue both their interests and their
passions. Under the guidance of Headmaster Dr. Thomas Aycock, Trinity Episcopal
actively fosters an environment of individualized learning. Always seeking to
expand both the choices available to students as well as the educational
boundaries of the school, Dr. Aycock decided eight years ago that the school
needed to expand its existing art program to include a 3-D component.
Lee Hazelgrove, a respected and well known local potter,
was hired to create a sculpture and ceramics program at the school. Dr. Aycock
provided the program with all the equipment Lee requested, including 15 Shimpo
pottery wheels, two L & L and one Cress electric kiln, a raku kiln, a
Bailey slab roller and extruder system, and a Radcliff pug mill. Dr. Aycock
gave Lee complete autonomy over the program, with the simple expectation of
great results and inspired students.
The program initially sought to provide students with a
beginner level experience with clay, including working on the wheel, hand
building, decorating and glazing. Within the first few years, it had grown to a
sequential curriculum incorporating intro level and advanced ceramics, advanced
sculpture, 3-D design principals, and a junior-senior year intensive study in
ceramics. Today, the ceramic and sculpture department has two faculty members,
serves up to 100 students a year and is recognized as a regional leader in
college preparatory arts programs.
Aycock and Hazelgrove have had great success giving the
art program and its students the same star status accorded to more
traditionally popular activities like football and basketball. "It's cool
to be an art student at Trinity," says Lee.
Headmaster Aycock works hard to make art an integral and
expected part of the curriculum, open to and popular with all students.
Trinity's Fine Arts Festival draws crowds as large as any Trinity sporting
event and is, appropriately enough, held in the school gymnasium. This focus on
the arts allows the sculpture and ceramics program at Trinity to attract
students who might normally avoid a 3-D art class. In fact, the school has
plans to expand the program with a new 5000-square-foot facility for the 3-D
Carolyn Royce trims a stoneware bowl.
Diverse Student Interests
Three seniors in the ceramic program typify its
diversity. Carolyn Royce works exclusively with mid-range stoneware clays using
Speedball's line of cone 6 stoneware glazes as decoration. The judges at
Trinity's Fine Arts Festival noted that Carolyn could probably make a career as
a professional potter based on the quality and appearance of her work. Rhiannon
Woody works exclusively with white earthenware clays, using assorted colors of
Speedball earthenware glazes over a white glaze base. Her large platters often
measure well over 2 ft across, and she believes the thicker consistency of the
Speedball glazes has demonstrably improved her results.
Brianna Winter also works with earthenware clays, but she
chooses to decorate with Speedball underglazes and Speedball's clear 05-06 glaze.
Bri was a Gold Key Portfolio winner at the regional level of the Scholastic Art
and Writing Awards, and competed at the national level this spring in New York. Her work draws
on the intensity and vividness of the underglaze colors. Students in the Trinity
ceramics program also experiment with raku, ceramic wall installations, mixed
media involving clay, and decorating clay with both acrylic and oil paints.
Bowl by Carolyn Royce decorated with Speedball stoneware glazes.
Trinity Episcopal was the first school in Richmond to be accredited
as an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. The International Baccalaureate
program provides a global standard for the evaluation of the success of
academic programs. The IB philosophy also meshes well with the philosophy of
Trinity Episcopal, which encourages and recognizes self-motivated and
individualized work. Students are expected not only to seek out a particular
and personal style but to understand the history and technical knowledge behind
their chosen approach.
Finished teapot by Bri Winter.
As part of the IB testing process for Lee's ceramic
program, students are required to keep a detailed research journal of both
progress and setbacks in their areas of focus. Rhiannon's journal, for example,
documents the occasional failure of certain large platters to survive the
firing process, the results of using different brands of clays and glazes, and
how different earthenware glazes melt together in combination.
At the end of their senior year, a professor from Virginia Commonwealth University's
art department, acting as an examiner for the IB program, evaluates each
student. In addition, students provide a detailed examination booklet that
contains images of their final body of work and excerpts from their research
notebooks. The booklet is sent to Cardiff, Wales,
to be judged on an international level.
Bri Winter decorates an earthenware teapot with Speedball
With over 75 students taking ceramics each day, Lee
Hazelgrove emphasizes to his students the importance of art as a counterbalance
to other academic disciplines. He believes the creation of art requires a
contemplative and perhaps even meditative mindset. Art-like math, science and
literature-is but one way to make sense of our world.
The tools and methods of creating art are very different
from other disciplines, however. Dealing with a variety of raw materials, Lee
is constantly concerned with the many safety issues involved with creating
pottery art. For example, he chooses to use glazes and related products that
are lead-free and AP Certified nontoxic.
Math, science and English teachers at Trinity are
fortunate that they never need to worry about glaze chemicals, spilled jars of
paint or dust contamination, but the rewards of teaching 3-D art are many.
Three of Lee's former students now attend the New York State School of Ceramics
at Alfred University,
and two more are currently enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth
recognized arts department. It is certainly ample proof that Headmaster
Aycock's vision of giving students both the opportunity and the freedom to explore
a passion can produce stunning results.
For additional information regarding glazes for the
classroom, contact Speedball Art Co., 2301 Speedball Rd.,
Statesville, NC 28677; (800) 898-7224; fax (704) 838-1472; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
or visit www.speedballart.com.
Trinity Episcopal School's website is located at trinityes.org.