BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When two high school seniors were tasked with a ceramics project of creating 30 clay pieces in 30 days, they approached the project in two different ways. And both came out of the experience with a new perspective on the art they create.
“You hate to admit it, but your teacher’s right,” said Isabella Douglas, a senior at Bloomington High School North. “They give you this project and you think they’re crazy, and then you come out of the whole thing and I admit it was worth my time and effort.”
The idea to make 30 cups in 30 days came about after North art teacher Daria Smith and Douglas were looking for a project for Douglas’ Advanced Placement art portfolio, The Herald-Times reported.
While browsing through Pinterest, the duo caught a glimpse of local artist Julia Livingston, who created 100 cups to “remind myself and others to pay attention to and explore the concept of process through the observation of the changes that occur over time in the making of 100 cups,” according to her website.
Because time was limited, Smith trimmed down the project to 30 cups in 30 days.
For Smith, it was a way to push Douglas – who tended to focus more on functional, classic pieces – out of her comfort zone and to encourage her to explore her creativity.
“Belle has been working in clay for about four years now and she works very tightly,” Smith said. “Her things are very crisp and beautiful. But one of the things she hadn’t done, she hadn’t loosened up a little bit. So the purpose of this was to get her to loosen up, because if you have to make things very quickly, you can’t hover over it.”
Douglas acknowledges that at first, she wasn’t psyched about sitting for hours creating something she wouldn’t have time to perfect.
“It was so different for me,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I would be happy with the end product. So I was like why am I spending a month of my time on something if I don’t enjoy the end product?”
About a week into the project, and after some prodding from her teacher not to be afraid to fail, Douglas began to change her mind. She realized she could push herself beyond her boundaries while still creating functional, beautiful pieces.
Looking at the various cups, which she was still putting the finishing touches on, she laughed as she pointed out that some of the cups she never would have finished prior to the project are now some of her favorite pieces.
“I’ve learned that although it’s painted kind of poorly because I had little time to finish it, I enjoy the piece as much as one of my perfectly finished pieces,” she said. “The other thing that surprised me was some of the pieces I didn’t think were going to turn out well, the ones (Smith) made me keep going with ended up being some of my favorites.”
Across town at Bloomington High School South, senior Hannah Wright was also in the process of creating 30 cups in 30 days.
But the reason she was chosen by her teacher, Stephanie Benham, to complete the project was totally different from that of her counterpart at North.
“Hannah’s a senior that I’ve had four years now, and she kind of reached a point where she wasn’t focusing on anything,” Benham said. “It was a little throwing, a little hand building and a day off here and there. The assignment to me sounded like something that gave her the opportunity to be expressive and creative, but still come out with the end product of 30 cups in 30 days.”
When it comes to Wright’s process, one that mirrors her daily choices, no two cups look alike, varying in size, shape and color.
One small blue cup has clouds and birds painted on it. Another black cup has a brown mitten wrapping around the side that Wright can fit her hand in.
A wavy-shaped brown cup has Wright’s handprint both indented and painted on the side.
“When I was looking at the original artist, her cups were transitioning into the next and there was a progression of shapes and forms,” Wright said. “Mine have just been pretty erratic. There’s no order, rhyme or reason for anything. I think it kind of reflects my personality. That’s why I like it.”
Working strictly on cups did not prove boring. In fact, Wright has embraced the idea that a lot can be done with a small piece of clay.
“Last year I went through a phase, ‘How big can I make something?’” she said. “I’ve realized this year, I’m coming around and I’m getting more intricate and I can make something cool but it doesn’t have to be big.”
The project also helped boost Wright’s confidence as an artist and allowed her, like Douglas, to try new things that may or may not work.
“It’s made me a little more confident, not just in the arts but in all aspects of my life,” Wright said. “It’s fun to look back at an old piece I’ve made and where I’m at now. I just like making something my own, and it’s kind of cool having my own take on something.”