Only four years after taking up ceramics, 14-year-old Lauren Campbell, an art student at Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, has created a unique, ceramic teapot which will be featured in the K-12 Exhibit at the 2014 National Ceramics Conference in Milwaukee, Wis.
The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts hosts the conference in a different city each year, with this year’s exhibit being held from March 19 to March 22.
“It feels really cool that people are going to see it. Usually I just bring it home and my family sees it,” said Campbell, an eighth grader at Winman Junior High School in Warwick. “I was really happy; I was kind of amazed.”
The K-12 Exhibit is an annual competition for students, designed to showcase the best student work from around the country. Campbell’s “Treepot,” a teapot designed to look like a tree, was one of only 150 pieces selected from 1,154 entries across four grade categories: K-5, 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12.
“[The piece] is one of my favorites. I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever made,” said Campbell.
Campbell is a regular student in the NCECA Bound: Advanced Pottery class at Artists’ Exchange. According to a press release from the studio, teacher Shannon Casey created the class based on the competitive and esteemed youth ceramics exhibit, which is part of NCECA each year.
“I took classes specifically to make pieces for this competition,” said Campbell.
“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,” said Casey.
This is the third year Artists’ Exchange has submitted student works and had them accepted.
Although she took part in the NCECA class, Campbell’s “Treepot” was a piece she created over the summer. The piece started out as a large, round classic teapot.
“That didn’t really work out. It ended up being really tall and skinny,” said Campbell.
One of her teachers encouraged her to make the unique handle, which does not attach at one end to the teapot. Thinking it looked like a tree branch, Campbell was inspired to design the piece to resemble a tree.
Campbell has been a student at Artists’ Exchange since she was in the fifth grade. She started in the summer camp programs but soon fell in love with pottery and ceramics.
“When I started taking summer classes here, I just loved it. We did real art, not just drawing,” said Campbell.
One of Campbell’s favorite parts of the summer program was working with clay once a week. When Campbell saw the opportunity to take pottery classes at Artists’ Exchange, she jumped at the opportunity.
She still remembers the first piece of pottery she made. “It’s an attempt at a bowl but the top didn’t come out right. I tried to make it look like a flower,” said Campbell.
She made her first teapot when she was 12, and in just two years, her home is now filled with all of the pieces she has made over the years. Most of her pieces are very colorful, with many of them themed around the ocean and the color blue.
She describes her style as simple.
“But sometimes I switch it up. I like making things big and round,” said Campbell.
Although Campbell usually makes different varieties of teapots, she also does some sculpture work.
Campbell prefers to work on a potter’s wheel, and is still hoping to make that large classic teapot one day. But sometimes, the clay has a mind of its own.
“I usually get a basic idea of what I want to do, then as I’m making it, it can change,” said Campbell.
Today, she takes ceramic classes continuously throughout the year, most recently starting an advanced ceramics class for the spring.
Campbell and Casey are also looking towards next year’s NCECA conference, which will be held in Providence.
“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,” said Campbell.
Campbell is preparing to start high school at La Salle Academy in the fall, but she plans to continue with ceramics, even hoping to incorporate it into her career one day.
She hopes to keep getting better and learning new skills, and is so thankful for the opportunity to study art at Artists’ Exchange. “The people here are really nice and really helpful. I couldn’t do this without them,” said Campbell.
Over the past 10 years, the ceramics program at Artists’ Exchange has grown immensely, starting as a studio with five wheels and becoming a space with 12 wheels, a separate studio for hand building and storage space for ceramic memberships.