I hinted in last month’s article that I was not an athletic child growing up, nor a particularly academic student for that matter.
The classes I liked most were the art classes offered during middle and high school. I can’t recall many of the teachers’ names I had throughout those 12 years, but I remember Molly O’Judge and Ken Jacobsen.
Molly was my middle school art teacher. I remember she had a small farm outside of Salem and raised sheep. She brought in bags of wool and taught us how to wash and “card” it using two brushes, much like the ones you might groom your dog with.
We hand-dyed the wool with natural pigments from onion skins and dried flowers, then learned to spin it into yarn using an old spinning wheel handed down to her by her grandmother. We spent a couple of weeks carving linoleum squares and making block print Christmas cards. These were just a couple of the amazing things I learned during my seventh and eighth grade years under Molly’s tutelage.
When I got to high school, art was still a focus for me and a great outlet for my creative energy. My first semester I enrolled in a beginning pottery class, which began a lifelong interest in ceramics.
Ken Jacobsen was the pottery teacher at the time, and has taught at the high school for a number of years prior and many years after I graduated.
Eventually I offered to spend a period every semester as an aide in the classroom, something we were allowed to do when we reached our junior year.
As an aide, I learned how to mix glazes, load the kiln, and how to use a “pug mill.” For those unfamiliar with pottery terms, a “pug mill” is a machine that takes clay scraps, water, and dry clay powder and combines them to form recycled clay that we bagged and stored.
I learned a great deal from Ken and a number of us in the classes were able to show some of our art pieces at the Bush Barn Art Center in Salem.
I found Ken about six years ago by random chance in a YouTube video where he was talking about his career and passion for the ceramic arts.
He and several other retired art teachers from the Salem area had worked together to develop the Willamette Art Center located at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.
I was able to find his email address and reached out to him to tell him how much I appreciated everything he taught me during those four years of high school.
I came to the park district in 2003 when my wife and I moved to the area. A few months later I was approached by my supervisor about developing a pottery program here at the Bob Chisholm Community Center.
I readily accepted the idea as we already had the studio space and a kiln. We started with two classes, one morning session and one evening. Sixteen years and five weekly classes later, we have a thriving community of pottery students in the program and two amazing instructors with a vast amount of knowledge and experience.
If you’re like me, academic achievement didn’t come easily, or naturally for that matter. Art was my outlet and played to my strengths. If you are searching for your creative outlet, perhaps our pottery program would be a great place to start. The first class is always free to try, so come by and see if ceramic arts is where your passion lays!
Every month, The BOB will bring you information on current events and items of interest here at the center. See you next month!