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Alexis Bratto Wins a Paragon Caldera Kiln for her School

Alexis Bratto and her teacher, Maribeth Sonsara.

, Mesquite, Texas

High School sophomore Alexis Bratto, who wants to pursue a career in the arts, received the Paragon Industries Test Kiln Award for her work in the 17th Annual National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition. Based on her precisely shaped and carved vase, her school, L'Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township, Michigan, will receive a top-of-the-line Digital Caldera test kiln.

“Mel Jacobson and I wandered through the K-12 display tables looking at entries, and Alexis Bratto’s vase stood out,” said Arnold Howard, spokesman for Paragon. “We agreed that the Bratto vase is outstanding.” Paragon Industries is proud to recognize Alexis. Her teacher, Maribeth Sonsara, is proud of Alexis, and so are all of us at Paragon.


Q. Please describe the pot that you submitted to the K-12 Foundation.

A. The pot I submitted is hand-built using coils. The pot bellies towards the middle and has two necks connected by a bridge. I covered the pot with a speckled slip and scratched away the design.

Q. What meaning, if any, do the symbols have?

A. The symbols don't have any meaning, just an emphasis on geometric and organic patterning.

Q. Do you plan on pursuing pottery as a profession or hobby?

A. I plan on pursuing pottery definitely as a hobby and would like to go to College for Creative Studies to pursue a career in the arts.

Q. What do your friends and family think of pottery?

A. My family is into art, so they think it's pretty sweet. My friends LOVE it . . . it’s groovy. My neighbor is into ceramics and inspired me to take ceramics at L'Anse Creuse High School.


(Maribeth Sonsara is Alexis Bratto’s ceramics teacher. Maribeth, thank you for helping to keep the ancient art of clay alive.)

Q. What was your reaction to the news that Alexis’s vase won the Paragon Caldera?

A. We are SO EXCITED to receive our new Paragon kiln. I am well aware of Mel Jacobson and his work. How exciting for Alexis to have her work picked by such a great in the ceramic world.

Q. Please tell us about Alexis and her winning vase.

A. I have had the pleasure of having Alexis as a student for three semesters. She is a sophomore in high school and made her project during her second semester. The assignment was to research the artwork of Native American tribes and make a piece that demonstrated the influence of a specific tribe. In keeping with tradition, the work was hand-built with coils, then covered in a slip, and Alexis finished it using the Sgraffito process. She has a knack for working in clay and has a great sense of design. She is currently working on her portfolio, which is a combination of wheel-thrown and hand-built works with an emphasis on pattern, texture, and color.

Q. What do you find most enjoyable about teaching clay?

A. There are so many things that I LOVE about teaching clay, but it is clay's ability to teach others that I love the most. Working in clay teaches patience, flexibility, resilience, creativity, and reaches every culture. Watching my students grow intellectually and artistically and watching their excitement is an incredibly beautiful experience. The stars were aligned when I applied for my current job, and I am so lucky I get to teach what I love, ALL DAY!

Q. How did you, as a teacher, become interested in clay?

A. I would have to say that clay found me. My mother is an art teacher, so I grew up appreciating and practicing many art forms, but I was not pressured to pursue art as a career. I always dreamed of being an ophthalmologist . . . until I took organic chemistry. In my junior year of high school, I attended Cranbrook, where I discovered that I MUST work in a creative field. In college, I worked more in wood, metal, and fiber and had the wonderful opportunity to work with Sadashi Inuzuka, who has been an amazing mentor to me. Since graduating, my work is almost exclusively in clay, mostly functional, and circles are always present. (I'm still trying to figure out who I am as an artist!) I have apprenticed with local artist Mary Humphrey and attended workshops with Tom Coleman, Neil Patterson, Sandi Pierentozzi, and will be attending a workshop with Matt Long at Anderson Ranch this summer.

Q. Please describe your classes.

A. This is my fourth year of teaching at L'Anse Creuse High School. I received my BFA from the University of Michigan and completed my M.ED at Aquinas College. Each semester, I teach six ceramics classes--three introductory and three advanced for a total of 175 ceramic students throughout the day. We focus on hand building skills in beginning ceramics, and in the second semester students are introduced to the wheel. After that, they may choose the route they want to further explore. We typically fire in oxidation but dabble in reduction firing once the ground thaws. The art department at L'Anse Creuse has always been strong, but I have worked very hard to build up the ceramics program and hope to continue growing and fostering a love of clay with the students.

The Alexis Bratto vase.

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