MORRISTOWN, NJ - “Okay students, put the pedal to the metal, keep your hands steady and centered on the wheel….” instructed Elizabeth Ostendorp, a teacher at Morristown High School.
The words were directed toward a class of ninth through twelfth grade students. Surprisingly, the directions did not come from behind a steering wheel, they came from behind a pottery wheel.
The MHS teacher admitted to sounding more like a driver’s ed teacher than an art teacher as she began the lesson. “The driving analogy works well.. students need to work the pedal, be aware of their surroundings and remain focused on the wheel.”
Pottery throwing is not only tricky, but also a potentially messy art.
“Our art rooms were renovated this past summer. Prior to that, we didn't really have a designated space for the pottery wheels, so it wasn't something that was taught as a whole class lesson. We just didn't have the room! So this year, I'm determined to make this something every student in my class does. I honestly am not that great on the wheel myself, but I do know how to teach it well.”
Always on the search to bring more modern and creative demonstrations into her classroom, this 13 year veteran of the Morris School District, thought it might be fun to invite a few MHS administrators and community members into the class to try their skills… or perhaps their luck at the wheel.
“It's a way for the students to see what a novice will look like. Not to make this sound like I'm setting people up, but it's important for the students to see people 'fail,' because they are most likely going to fail themselves when they start this. They can watch all the videos, my demos...but they are only seeing experts doing it confidently the whole time.”
Ostendorp’s lesson was two- fold, her students began to learn the finesse and skill of pottery throwing but also learned that mastery takes time. No matter what age, or position in life, some things will take time and first times are usually a little difficult.
During Friday’s class, Morristown’s Mayor, Tim Dougherty was the brave rookie to grab hold of the wheel.
For his first time, the mayor came prepared, he donned a pair of old shoes just in case clay started flying and also got a haircut before his pottery throw. He didn’t want his locks getting tangled in the spinning wheel. “You can’t be afraid to take risks, you never want to stay stagnant” were the words Dougherty shared with the students as they watched him learn the new skill. He also encouraged every student to take advantage of all MHS has to offer. “We didn’t have anything like this when I was growing up!” Said the mayor to the group of expectant faces.
As firsts go, Dougherty’s time at the wheel was a huge success. He listened intently to Ostendorp’s directions, stayed calm behind the wheel and has a clay pot to prove it. “It’s round, it didn’t collapse…success!” quipped Dougherty as he surveyed his clay creation.
Once the Mayor’s pot drys, he asked that all of the MHS students initial his work as a keepsake for his office.
Next newbie taking on the wheel is Principal Mark Manning, scheduled to visit Ostendorp’s class next Monday. Rumor around the MHS hallways- no way is he having the mayor create a better pot- he plans on watching the pottery scene from the movie, Ghost, as many times as he can this weekend. Move over Swayze, Manning’s taking the wheel.
Mayor Dougherty and MHS freshman, Daniela Cappy pose next to Cappy’s handcrafted creation which was recently submitted into the Fresh Perspectives Art Show. Good Luck Daniela!
The MHS basketball team is in good hands! 10th grader, Ray Mundrick not only shows finesse on the court, he also shows finesse at the pottery wheel.
12th Grader, Paul Farhat is one of the masters. His bowl making skills are so good, he no longer has to wash dishes.. When one gets dirty- he creates a new pot.
First time, not a problem for this MHS Senior. Kristian DiMogerodakis’ first time at the wheel was smooth sailing with a smile.
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