The Importance of Clay & Creativity

The Edmonson family with All Fired Up Chico owner Janice Hofmann.

The Edmonson family with All Fired Up Chico owner Janice Hofmann.

Art plays a significant role in our children’s development. When our children are young, we are excited when they bring home a watercolor painting or a hand-drawn card for Valentine’s Day. As children enter their teenage years, we need to encourage them to continue to cultivate this creativity even as other activities start to take priority, such as getting involved in high school sports or buying the latest electronic gadgets.

Clay is one medium that promotes creativity. It is especially beneficial to young people – it helps promote self-confidence, encourages self-expression and develops problem-solving skills. Noam Zimin, founder of Clay Dance Studio in Siskiyou County, states, “I believe few art mediums kindle growth and skills in children the way clay does.”

Noam offers a variety of pottery classes, including a class for K–8th grade students, adult pottery classes, and a special class for parents and children together. There are several courses he offers the schools during the academic year: a special course on Native American pottery and its connection to basket weaving in the Siskiyou County area, a course in ancient oil lamp making with a pit fire (dating back to ancient Egypt), and a class where he uses pottery to bring to life a book called A Single Shard, which is about a potter and his apprentice.

Stellar Charter School Ceramics teacher Keith Burroughs

Stellar Charter School Ceramics teacher Keith Burroughs

Keith Burroughs, who teaches ceramics at Stellar Charter School in Redding, explains that there are many benefits to ceramics: “The special thing I see over and over again is watching the self-esteem of each student grow when they accomplish something they thought they couldn’t do. The reward on their smiling faces is wonderful. Some students may struggle in some courses yet really do well in arts like ceramics or music.”

Stellar Charter School provides classes in ceramics and pottery from 1st through 12th grade. The classes focus on ceramic techniques, hand building, wheel work and sculpture. The school also offers an advanced ceramics class for high school students where they do more challenging projects. “To take a lump of clay and make it into something usable or beautiful changes your outlook on life,” says Keith.

Students Bailey Coughren and Rianna Porter at Stellar Charter School.

Students Bailey Coughren and Rianna Porter at Stellar Charter School.

All Fired Up Ceramic Art Center in Chico is a professional wet clay studio offering ceramic art classes for children and adults; it’s a place where artists and students can connect with each other and have access to supplies and materials. For those new to using wet clay, basic pottery skills are taught based on the type of project a customer chooses and whether the student wants a series of lessons or just a one-time class.

In January and February, Norma Lyon will be teaching workshops on rattle and whistle making. In mid-February, the studio will offer “Diversability Wednesdays” to encourage collaboration between clients of all ages with and without developmental disabilities.

For teenagers with an upcoming birthday, a clay party may be a creative way to celebrate. Janice Hofmann, owner of All Fired Up in Chico, explains, “The organizer of the party usually picks out a project for the group to do, but individuals can add many special personal touches.” All Fired Up in Redding also offers birthday party packages. For pottery painting, different types of pottery are available such as mugs, plates and platters. The customer chooses the colors of paint for the objects, paints them, and then the studio glazes and fires them.

Tiffany at All Fired Up in Redding.

Tiffany at All Fired Up in Redding.

Both All Fired Up studios host events for large and small groups. All Fired Up in Redding has hosted groups such as the Redding School of the Arts, University Preparatory School, and Turtle Bay School. The studio in Chico is available for family reunions, ladies night out evenings, and employee team-building events.

As parents we want to foster the talents of our children. My daughters created a variety of ceramic pieces in their junior high ceramics class which provided me a window into their personal identities. What they envisioned in their imagination came to life with clay. Making something out of clay stimulates the imagination; as you create an object you reveal an aspect of yourself.

Even for those children and teens who don’t show much creative talent, it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of the creative arts, such as ceramics, in their lives. Parents need to support the arts in schools and encourage children and teens to take art classes. As ceramics teacher Ken Burroughs states, “So many times art is set aside for financial reasons when our youth need this education.”

Darla Greb Mazariegos
About Darla Mazariegos

Writer Darla Greb Mazariegos is a mother of three and part of the North State Parent staff.

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