Life Beyond the Glaze

Berkley High School offers a wide range of art classes, giving Berkley students numerous opportunities to express themselves creatively. These classes range from choir to advanced jewelry and everything in between. One of these numerous opportunities is in Mrs. Depaulis’s ceramics class. Students can bring their creations to life by using techniques such as carving, glazing, and piercing. However, few people understand what ceramics is, what they do, and where the classroom is located. Although, after reading this article, those same people will most likely question why they haven’t already signed up for this class next year. With the help of students who take ceramics and my own research, I can confidently say that this is a very underrated class. If you have an open hour on your schedule next year, you should consider taking ceramics.
First, you may be thinking to yourself “I don’t even know what ceramics is.” However, don’t fret dear reader, I will explain. In a nutshell, ceramics is the shaping of clay into desired forms; afterward, the clay is placed in a super hot oven known as a kiln. The kiln hardens the clay and solidifies the art into one piece. Typically, before putting the clay into the kiln, a protective paint coat known as the glaze is applied to the object. This makes the creation waterproof. After all your hard work of crafting your piece, you finally get to paint your wonderful art and be proud of what you have accomplished, that is if you were successful.
I got the chance to interview Mrs. DePaulis, the teacher of beginner and advanced ceramics at Berkley High. I asked her questions regarding the function of the class, grades, and other topics connected to ceramics.
I first asked Mrs. DePaulis, “what does your class look like on a daily basis?” She responded, “The ceramics room has to be the dirtiest room in the school! On a daily basis, you see students working on hand-building projects at the tables and throwing things on the wheels. Lots of clay on the hands.” She said, “Students move around the room more than in most classes. There is much discussion and laughter between students. It is a fun atmosphere.”
In response to being asked what she enjoys most about teaching ceramics, she replied, “My favorite thing about teaching ceramics, and the reason kids like it, is that it is very tactile. It’s really satisfying to take a hunk of clay and turn it into something useful or beautiful.”
Students not only learn creative skills in this class, but they also learn problem-solving skills and basic techniques for working with new materials. Students learn how to collaborate in the studio with others, how to use tools, how to build relationships, and how to transform two-dimensional ideas into three-dimensional forms. Students also learn how to glaze their work and how clay is fired in kilns. Students learn to, “take pride in their ideas and projects” which builds confidence. Working with clay can be difficult, so determination and follow-through are important.
Mrs. Depaulis hopes that her students will not only enjoy ceramics in class but will also be able to take the valuable lessons they have learned throughout the year with them past Berkley High. She stated, “In five years, I want my students to have positive, determined spirits. Know that it is OK to make mistakes, but be resilient enough to overcome them. Problem-solving is the most important skill I want them to hang on to.”
Part of the class structure involves a creative design, in which “Students choose the projects they would like to make.” Mrs. DePaulis notes that students enjoy this “freedom of coming up with their own ideas,” adding that a big favorite is “throwing on the wheel.” She believes that this style “makes [students] more invested in their work [since] they are not told what to make.”

In response, I naturally wondered if there was a curriculum involved in her teaching. Interestingly, Mrs. DePaulis informed me that she does have a curriculum! She explained, “There are only four techniques for making things with clay: pinching, coiling, slabbing, and throwing.” Along with her lessons of the previous techniques, she also teaches “trimming, handle making, and other [methods] they can incorporate into their work.”
So, how do you determine grades? Mrs. DePaulis puts in “Grades based on effort, growth, participation, and technical skills for the four projects.”
When looking into students’ opinions of the class, I found that there is an overall positive feeling about the function and project within the class.
I talked to sophomore Elie Shultz, who is currently taking advanced ceramics, about what she enjoys about the class compared to her other classes. Shultz responded, “I like how the class is more relaxed, and we get to work at our own pace. We also have no homework which is awesome.” Having no homework was a common theme when I asked other students in the class what they enjoyed about ceramics compared to other classes.
One other common theme that came up was creativity. Shultz talked about the artistic outlet ceramics offers, saying, “We can almost make whatever we want, and that’s something we don’t have the ability to do in other classes.” The ability to be creative and follow your imagination is the one thing that is not offered often in many courses at BHS. Following this interview and talking to more students that are in ceramics, I realized that this theme of creativity is lacking in classes and schools today. With the freedom of creativity, students are having fun while learning, which is something everyone should desire.
Ceramics is a fantastic class to take at Berkley High School, and I recommend that you consider enrolling in it next year. Not only do you learn about ceramics, but each student also develops life skills that they can use later in life. Through all the clay and paint scattered across the room, the class environment is fun and friendly, and Mrs. DePaulis truly cares about teaching and preparing her students for the present and the future. Therefore, when March comes and you are resting in the comfort of your bedroom thinking about what class you should take next year, give ceramics a chance and I bet you’ll have a blast!