A Lesson on Vessels and the Art of Celebration

Robbie Heidinger Visit 1If there are trophies for athletics, why not have one for art as well?

That was the premise of a recent hands-on workshop by ceramic artist Robbie Heidinger P ’14 in the Grubbs Gallery. During her May 7 visit, she worked with two dozen students from Williston Northampton School’s Arts Intensive Program to craft just such a vessel.

In her own work, which was on display in Grubbs through mid-May, Ms. Heidiger said she has been inspired by the shape, colors, and textures of plants. She began her recent visit to Williston by passing around a vase of spring flowers and urging students to examine the shapes.

“There are really no rules,” Ms. Heidinger told them. “I just want you to start thinking about structure.”

As students grabbed handfuls of clay and began molding them, Ms. Heidinger explained that their small creations would then be used on the body of the trophy as a lasting collective work.

Robbie Heidinger Visit 3“I’m going to show you how to make a vessel,” she said. “This is going to be an accelerated lesson on vessel making.”

With students standing around two long tables, Ms. Heidinger painted a slab of clay blue and green, stood it up and formed a simple cylinder with the sides folded to create an ovoid mouth. She then added a second cylinder to the top.

“I’m trying to work fast because this clay is drying,” she said, shaping quickly. “I like to lose myself when I’m making my work and not think too much.”

Grubbs is a teaching gallery and an integral part of the fine arts curriculum, which makes it the perfect place to host such an artist demonstration, said Natania Hume. Ms. Hume, who teaches ceramics, design, and drawing at the school, is also the gallery’s director and curator.

Robbie Heidinger Visit 2“I was hoping that getting the students involved in making an art ‘trophy’ would allow them to collaborate on creating a piece that would symbolize their time here and be a permanent reminder of Robbie’s exhibition and talk,” she wrote in an email after the event.

She said that, after the vessel was complete, students had the opportunity to ask Ms. Heidinger questions about her specific ceramic techniques, including her use of colors and glazes.

“I think they had a chance to think more deeply about the process of making ceramic vessels and to appreciate her work anew,” Ms. Hume wrote, adding of the trophy, “The final piece was actually quite handsome!”

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