Ceramics classes continue inspiring students

Karl Abon

Waipahu High School has been offering ceramics as an elective to students for more than three decades.

“I have been teaching art, mostly ceramics, since I graduated college in 1995,” said Ceramics teacher Peter Murray. “It is an ancient art form and I think there will never be a comparable way to replace it with technology.”

Murray teaches ceramics because he loves art: “I still make and sell ceramics, art, and pottery, and want to share that love for clay with the students.”

He began teaching at Waipahu High School in 2010. “A lot of students tell me that their older brother, sister, or cousin told them to take my class,” Murray says. “It makes me feel good to hear this from the students and remember old students.”

There are four ceramics courses: Ceramics 1, 2, 3, and 4. Ceramics 1 students learn the basics of hand-building and glazing, while Ceramics 2 students learn wheel-throwing and advanced glazing techniques. If students want to continue learning ceramics beyond Ceramics 2, they may take Ceramics 3 and 4, in which students do self-directed learning and improve their skills more independently.

The ceramics classes provide free clay and tools for students to use. Students first take notes and draw their projects. Then, they are challenged to turn their drawings into 3-D pieces. 

After students complete their work, Murray fires it for them; then the students glaze their work before Murray fires it again.

When students complete their projects, they may take them home or leave them in class. For those who choose to leave their projects in class, their work is shown as an example for next year’s students. 

Although it is an ancient art form, Murray explains why ceramics is especially important to students today: “We are doing so many things digitally and online in our life. Ceramics allows students to get their hands dirty and experience a hands-on art project.”

Photos by Tilaya Jones