As soon as Lauren Campbell was tall enough to reach the foot pedal on the pottery wheel, it was a match made in heaven.
At a very young age, she started coming to Artists’ Exchange in Cranston for classes and summer camps where she worked with her hands creating things out of clay. It was not until she enrolled in beginning pottery classes that Lauren really discovered a love for ceramics. She moved on with her studies to attend to ceramic focused summer camps where she began creating pieces worthy of presentation at the national level.
Four years later, the Winman Junior High student is a regular student in the NCECA Bound: Advanced Pottery class at the Rolfe Square art center. Artists’ Exchange teacher Shannon Casey designed the class around a highly competitive and esteemed youth ceramics showcase which is part of an annual ceramics conference put on by NCECA, The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. The class not only focuses on further developing ceramic skills but encourages students to be more critical of their art so that they can work towards entering their pieces into national exhibitions such as the K-12 Exhibition.
The National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition is an annual juried ceramic competition for students Kindergarten through Grade 12. The Exhibition is designed to showcase the best K-12 ceramic work made in the country. The exhibition takes place in a different city each year in conjunction with the annual NCECA conference. This year’s exhibition is to take place March 19-22 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Lauren’s piece, Treepot, a tree-like teapot, was selected after an examination of 1,154 entries for this year's exhibition. Only 150 pieces were selected for the exhibition across four grade categories: K-5, 6-8, 9-10, 11-12. When asked how she felt about being selected as 1 of 150 out of thousands of other students, Lauren was amazed. “When I started pottery I was 10, I barely knew what I was doing. Knowing I've come this far is a huge accomplishment for me. My teachers have taught me everything that I need to know, and I couldn't have done it without them.”
Lauren’s favorite thing about pottery is that she is able to create her own work and that everything is completely original. She has grown from creating a simple bowl or cup to looking at her work and thinking about how she can alter it to make it an original piece.
“I created all these pieces throughout the years with my own ideas. When I make a piece I really like, it's a great feeling. Even if you mess up, you can always change your idea to make an even better piece.”
Casey encourages students like Lauren with a passion for ceramics to take the advanced class. “The NCECA class was developed to move kids beyond clay as a hobby to the art of ceramics, to further investigate the wonders and versatility of the medium. Kids are able to develop their own language and their own voice through clay pieces. Having attended NCECA in years past we were inspired to ‘pump up’ our own classroom challenges for our students because we knew the maximum potential had not been realized, including our potential to teach.”
This is the third year Artists’ Exchange has submitted students’ work and had it accepted into the exhibition. With much excitement, Casey exclaims “each year they surprise me with more interesting and well-crafted pieces than the year before. In class, we talk about creating each piece as if you are going to submit it next year. They all know Providence is on the line next year so I cannot wait to see what they have in store.”
Next year the NCECA conference is to be held in Providence, Rhode Island, and everyone at Artists’ Exchange, students included, is extremely excited. Lauren is already looking forward to next year and has enrolled in advanced ceramics for the spring. “I would really like to get one of my pieces in the Providence exhibition and see my work there. Either way, I would still really want to go to the Providence exhibition.”
Kathy Campbell, Lauren’s mother, looks forward to her continued ceramic education “Thanks to the instructors at Artists’ Exchange, Lauren has discovered pottery and absolutely loves it. We are so happy that we found Artists' Exchange.”
Artists’ Exchange offers many hand building and wheel throwing classes to both children and adults. Ceramics is very popular and is the art center’s fastest growing program. In the last 10 years it has grown from one studio with 5 wheels to 12 wheels and a separate studio for hand building as well as storage space for ceramic memberships. The studios are filled with professional equipment and classes are taught by both certified art teachers and up and coming ceramic artists. Karen Bouchard, Visual Art Director, remarks that “we are thrilled that students like Lauren got their start here and welcome everyone of all ages and ability levels.”