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07/03/2018. Morgan Harmon Wins Paragon FireFly Kiln for her School. READ MORE

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Morgan Harmon Wins Paragon FireFly Kiln for her School

Morgan Harmon, left, and her teacher, Nicole Diem


NCECA, the annual pottery convention, hosts the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition. The pieces this year were chosen from over 1,000 photo entries from schools across America.

The creative energy that went into the pieces seemed to pervade the exhibit room and cause visitors walking past the tables to speak in quiet tones. As I looked for the winner of a Paragon digital FireFly kiln, I was drawn several times to a raku rabbit, with a glaze that shone in silver, green, blue, and gold. Harry the Hare was made by Morgan Harmon. The piece won the FireFly kiln for Century High School in Sykesville, Maryland, USA.

In the interviews below, Morgan Harmon and her 11th grade teacher, Nicole Diem, talk about pottery, art, and Harry the Hare. --Arnold Howard


Morgan Harmon Interview


Q. Does your entry Harry the Hare have a story behind it?
A. In our ceramics class we had to choose and sculpt an extinct animal. I have a pet rabbit, so I knew right away I wanted to make a rabbit for my raku piece. I chose the pigmy bunny, because after researching extinct rabbits, the pigmy was most like my bunny at home. It has tall ears, it is short, fat and fluffy. I have a picture of my rabbit. He’s sitting so cute with both ears straight up. I used that as a guide for making Harry the Hare.
Q. What do your friends and family think of your pursuit of clay?
A. My friends think it’s great. My older sister, Kelsey, took every art class offered at Century, and she told me ceramics was one of her favorites. I didn’t realize how much I’d like the class and working with clay, but so far it’s been my favorite art class. I am even thinking about taking AP 3D in my senior year.
Q. How did your friends react when Harry the Hare was chosen for the K-12 Foundation?
A. Everyone was so happy for me. It made me feel really good to know that what I was doing in clay paid off. I get asked all the time to make things for other people, especially pieces on the potter’s wheel.
Q. Do you plan on pursuing clay as a profession or hobby?
A. I’d definitely love to pursue clay as a hobby. I especially love working on the potter’s wheel.

Nicole Diem Interview. Nicole is passionate about pottery and works in clay almost every day.

Q. Please tell us about Morgan and the raku piece she made.
A. Morgan is a junior at Century High School and has taken a variety of art courses with me. She has a twin sister who also took my ceramics class. The two sisters work wonderfully together. I really enjoy the twins and may have prompted them to take more art classes because I find their enthusiasm rare as well as refreshing.
I teach a unit on raku pottery where we talk about Paul Soldner, the infamous potter who brought the technique back from Japan, and we research the work of Nick Mackman, an Australian sculptor who sculpts extinct African animals using the raku process. We are the only school in Carroll County that works in raku. We sculpt and fire at school and then fire raku off campus at a nearby pottery studio.
The students are challenged to sculpt an extinct animal of their choosing. Students are to create many drawings and have an abundance of resources of the animal from each angle. The project takes quite a while especially because I am so diligent about the final details. Fur and hair have to flow in the right direction and be consistent in length and texture. We use a lot of drawing techniques to look at angles, distance, shape and size of features and extremities. Morgan worked very hard for many hours to make sure the hare looked realistic.
Q. What do you find most enjoyable about teaching clay?
A. “Who wants to make something in clay?” That’s all a teacher has to say to have complete buy in from an entire class. No matter how old a student is, everyone gets excited about sculpting something . . . anything.
My school offers only one ceramics class for one semester. I teach a variety of other art classes, and so it is important for me to make sure that all of my students get to experience clay and hand building. I try to make the projects relevant, contemporary and interesting so there is an appeal for everyone. I will even slip in small 20-minute slab projects to introduce them to texture and patina. I love to see students revel in their accomplishments; clay can be daunting when you think of the fragility and process that it has to go through. Teaching the students about embellishment, details and refinement is also key to the success of their pieces. Success creates a genuine sense of pride and accomplishment as well as a love of the media. That is why I love my job and teaching students how to love and enjoy clay.
Q. What effect do you think making art has on students?
A. When students allow themselves to become immersed in creating art, it gives them an opportunity to unwind, relax, and enjoy the process. For some, creating art also allows another means of communicating ideas and feelings. When students make art, they have to make choices, right or wrong. These choices will help them solve problems and use critical thinking skills. Ultimately these skills will carry over cross curricular and help them become more well round in writing, reading, science and math.
When students become more aware of the way things are created, sculpted, drawn, digitally enhanced or painted, they become more sensitive and appreciative of the overall process, thus creating art appreciation. Lastly, creating art is also based upon history, cultures and our diverse world. Learning and incorporating knowledge from our past helps mold future artists to make artwork that is more unique and personal. No matter what the ability level of our students, signing up for art classes is a chance for them to create not only a piece of art but, more importantly, to have the adventure of learning something new about themselves . . . the a-ha moment filled with joy and pride of something they created with their own hands.
Q. How did you become interested in clay and art in general?
A. I have had a passion for art for as long as I can remember. My mother was very talented and dabbled in a variety of art media, as well as sewing, stained glass, cooking, and landscape design. She was a huge inspiration and encouraged me to always try new things. In high school I became immersed in the arts. I dabbled in as many art courses as I could in college and there decided that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life and not as a hobby, which often gets forgotten due to the business of life.
I love using my hands to create, and ceramics lends itself to that. It allows me the opportunity to sculpt something beautiful from nothing and to create all types of functional and decorative pottery on the potter’s wheel.
Q. What other types of art are you interested in?
A. I recently read an article from CBS News that stated how busy hands can alter our brain chemistry. Researchers claim that keeping our hands occupied makes for a happier and more engaged brain. I could not agree more. Besides spending time with my family, I am happiest while creating, drawing, painting, sculpting, crocheting, and throwing on the potter’s wheel. My passion is pottery. I am an avid potter and work in clay almost every day.  I have been working with raku for about 10 years and demonstrate for a local potter twice a year at their shows. I also sell my pottery, both functional and decorative.

Morgan Harmon's Harry the Hare

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