Posted by: csdailyblog | December 3, 2012

Fired Up for a Life Lesson

~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS5 student Ella Schmidt. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s 17 learning goals. Ella is from Verona, Wisconsin and attends Middleton High School.~

In this entry, Ella…
takes a strong step forward on her educational path equal to or greater than the expected progression at her sending school.



One of my favorite classes at Conserve has been Ceramics. It’s not like any class I took at Middleton, mainly because I always took “serious” classes and saw art as something that was fun to try, but would have to give way to a math class in the end when it came time to schedule. However, when I was signing up for CS5 classes, I heard raving comments from CS alumni about Ceramics, so I put it on my electives list.

Over the past weeks, we’ve been working on pinch pots, tiles, boxes, bowls, and, most recently, place settings for a class lunch next week. Each setting will include a bowl, a plate, a mug, a cup, and a centerpiece. Temp Ella 2My setting features etched pine boughs on an off-white background. The inspiration came from hours spent at my phenology site, lying on my back staring up through the branches of red and white pine. When I think of my time here in the Northwoods, both during the summer and this past semester, I instantly recall tall, majestic pines, and it seems appropriate to commemorate this in my setting.

FrogPotOne of the lessons I’ve learned from Ceramics is patience. The process, especially for my particular set, is time-consuming. First, the pot must be formed, by pinching, slapping clay over a mold, or throwing on the wheel. It must be dried slowly over several days, otherwise it will dry too quickly and crack. Once the pot is leather hard, it can be burnished (rubbed with a spoon or smooth rock to polish it) and etched with a design. Next, the pot is bisqued, or fired, in the kiln. Once it has been bisqued, the potter paints wax into the etchings and glazes the pot with the base glaze. The pot is fired again, the wax running off in the process. When it comes out of the kiln this time, the next color is brushed into the etchings and fired yet again. If the glazes do not turn out the way that the potter intended, or if the pot breaks during the drying, the potter must start all over again from the very beginning. Since the process takes so long, it can be two weeks before a single pot is completed. It took extreme amounts of patience to be able to wait for the pot to dry, wait for the bisque load, wait for the next glazed firing. In the end, however, it made the final result that much more satisfying.

BrokenThe other lesson I’ve learned is detachment. Over the class periods, I became more and more attached to my pieces, refusing to scrap them if the glaze did not turn out how I wished. More than once, I threw a mental hissy-fit over pots that cracked over a week of drying or whose glaze bubbled in the kiln. The pieces are incredibly fragile as well; many cracked when I bumped my shelf or the table. The first few, I was upset over, insisting that there had to be a way to salvage my ruined pieces. But in the course of a few weeks, I’ve become much more detached from each pot. If one cracks, I simply toss it in the clay bucket and take a new lump of clay to wedge. If the glaze doesn’t turn out how I had envisioned, I flip through my notebook and jot down what glazes I shouldn’t use in the future.

Ceramics Students

Ceramics Students

Both patience and detachment are two virtues that I will be applying in my daily life, now that I have learned their value in the academic setting. I must learn to be patient with the seasons, patient with working with others, patient with waiting for test scores to return. I must learn to become detached from electronics, from noise and the media, from materialistic things that, in the grand scheme, aren’t truly important. What are important are the towering pine trees, showering needles when I walk under them, and the people around me, savoring every moment of CS5.

~Ella Schmidt, Conserve School Semester 5


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