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For Marble Falls students, ceramics a ‘break for their minds’

Marble Falls High School ceramics class

Marble Falls High School art teacher Lerin Lockwood (right) watches as student Francisco Ambriz works on a ceramics project in class. The upper-level ceramics class has grown from two to three students a few years ago to almost 24. Along with class credit, students can enroll in AP-level ceramics, as Ambriz has done, to possibly earn college credit. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton


In Marble Falls High School art teacher Lerin Lockwood’s mind, all Josiah ‘Yaya’ Rojas had to do was “pinch” the vase to create a carafe. He had made enough vases, Lockwood told him with a laugh.

But Rojas wasn’t satisfied with the piece of pottery spinning in front of him. He stopped the pottery wheel, cut free the clay, and balled it up to begin fresh.

Starting over is part of the creative process, the Ceramics IV students explained. Even when they have an idea for a piece and it’s spinning on the wheel, it often changes.

“Always,” corrected senior Francisco Ambriz. “It’s never what it starts out as.”

That’s one of the beauties of ceramic pottery — or art in general.

Lockwood’s ceramics students learn that concept in a hands-on way. And it’s paying off.

Since she began teaching ceramics about three or four years ago, Lockwood has seen class size grow from three or four students to almost 24 in her upper-level courses. Some of the students have plans of pursuing art in college and as a career.

Even if they have no such intention, the ceramics classes offer students tremendous benefits.

“It’s relaxing,” Grace Miller explained.

Marble Falls High School ceramics class
Marble Falls High School students Grace Miller (front) and Sheila Hernandez work on projects in Lerin Lockwood’s ceramics class. The students create functional and artistic pieces. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Lockwood agreed.

“That’s a big part of it,” she said. “In some ways, it’s a break for their minds. They can just come in here and work on their pottery and just let everything else go. It’s an escape.”

As the students set clumps of clay on the spinning wheels, they work and mold the formless blobs into pieces of art. Much of it is functional such as vases, carafes, and bowls. They work the wet, gray clay and it covers their hands. There’s no complaining.

“It’s also something where they can come in for forty-five minutes, get their hands dirty, and not be on their phones,” Lockwood pointed out.

Lockwood’s Advance Placement classes — which include drawing and ceramics — are some of the most successful AP courses on campus. Her students regularly make the grade to get AP credit. Last year, of the 11 students submitting for AP, 10 of them earned credits.

In the AP program, students pick a theme on which they focus throughout the year. They have to make 15 pieces with that one concept running through each. To get college credit in an AP course, a student must earn at least a 3 on the project or exam.

Last year, eight of Lockwood’s AP students earned 4s and two earned 3s. Two years ago, one student earned a 5. Projects are graded on a scale of 1-5 for AP credit.

Marble Falls High School ceramics class
Josiah ‘Yaya’ Rojas works the clay while it spins as he creates a ceramic project — maybe a vase, maybe a carafe, or maybe something else. The finished piece seldom looks like what was first imagined. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Art can definitely lead to jobs. One former Marble Falls High School student landed a career designing labels for a winery in Washington.

An added benefit: Research shows that creating art helps with neural connectivity of the brain. It’s relaxing and reduces stress levels.

Around the spinning wheels in Lockwood’s class, the students finished their work for the day. Throughout the 45 minutes, they’ve given advice, input, and feedback to one another.

“It’s amazing to watch them work,” Lockwood said. “They’re incredibly supportive of each other.”

The ceramics class also does projects for the public. People often email Lockwood asking if her students can make them something. The students get a chance to earn money, and a portion goes back into the program.

Numinous Coffee Roasters, 715 RR 1431 in Marble Falls, is hosting an exhibit of the students’ handmade ceramic pumpkins leading up to Halloween. The pieces are also for sale.

Even though Rojas’ initial ceramic piece didn’t shape up like he had hoped, he settled back behind the pottery wheel and went to work. Sometimes, it just takes several tries to bring the right thing out of the clay.

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