Art students and instructor Kathy Kelly welcomed a new artist in residence to ICJA for second semester. Michelle Friedman (’75), together with fellow potter and friend, Betsey Fiddler, are helping to launch a new pottery unit for advanced art students. Teaching pottery as part of the art curriculum has been a goal of Ms. Kelly’s since moving into the new ICJA building. We purchased a kiln and pottery wheels in recent years, and acquired clay, thanks to several donors, including Friedman.
Both Fiddler and Friedman learned pottery together at the Evanston Art Center 12 years ago. Most astounding is that Friedman has been visually impaired all her life and lost all her vision about 25 years ago. Being blind has never stopped Friedman from what she wanted, including learning pottery. Friedman described what it’s like to create pottery while blind in an article on Make It Better:
When asked how she would describe the process of making her ceramics without the ability to see them, Friedman says she feels very in control until it’s time for her pieces to be glazed.
“In making my pieces I can feel what’s happening and I can create an image in my head what’s happening with the piece itself,” she says. “In the process of glazing it I lose control.”
The glazing part of the ceramics process is when the artist must choose the piece’s specific colors, dipping them into certain buckets of glaze, brushing them or sponging them for certain amounts of time.
In addition to teaching the pottery class, Friedman has been ICJA board president, a lay leader, a past parent and has spoken to students numerous times about being blind. In 2013, she wrote a children’s book about being blind, Close Your Eyes, which she discusses to create disability awareness.
For the first lesson on Feb. 5, the students learned the basics of throwing on the electric wheels. Ms. Kelly says, “It was fast and furious as the students created their first pieces.”
Senior Oriya Falk say, “I always wanted to learn to use pottery, but I had never gotten the chance to do so before yesterday. It was exciting to begin to learn. I found that the technique was more difficult than I expected, but I understand that making pottery is a skill that is built through commitment and a lot of trial and error. It was interesting to hear Michelle’s perspective as she explained how to work the clay mostly in terms of how it feels as opposed to how the clay looks. I think I would have otherwise focused more on the visual aspect.”
Art students look forward to learning this new skill and showcasing their work.