Sharing Faith Through Clay

“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”  John Updike (American Writer, b. 1932)

Were you aware that Hope School has a kiln? It has been used as far back as the 1980s when retired 7th grade teacher, Ken Wilke, taught ceramics education interwoven into the art curriculum. Throughout February, March and April it will be fired up to cure works of art created by our budding potters in preschool through 5th grade as part of the Artist In Residence program sponsored by the PTH (Parent and Teachers of Hope).


Hope Preschool Director and trained potter, Marie Tornow, along with parent and skilled potter, Nicole Pepper who earned a BFA in ceramics, organized and prepared this program, creating lesson plans and teaching the necessary skills to students so they could create clay projects based on celebrating God’s creation story, tying in with the theme Bible verse for the school year: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.: (Ephesians 2:8-10)

“The premise for the project is celebrating God’s days of creation, and also that He made us creative. We were created in His image and so He instilled creativeness in each one of us,” said Tornow.


Through their mutual love of pottery and working with children, Tornow and Pepper realized that they both wanted to use their art as a means of sharing their faith with students. “I feel that God has opened all the doors to me for this project and has been the one to put Nicole and me together,” says Tornow. “We complement each other’s skills, and learn from each other.”

Each class has been invited to make a project based on one of the days of creation. They spend one session in the classroom learning about the project, and then meet for two or three 45 minute sessions with Pepper and Tornow in the Fellowship Hall which serves as a temporary pottery studio. Aprons are donned and each student has their work station at which to mold their mound of clay. Learning about the properties of clay, the process of working it, and using tools to create form and texture are taught throughout the sessions. Simple tools such as spatulas, forks, straws, popsicle sticks, bottle caps and the like are made available on each table for students to experiment with while they work. “They have the basic direction of their day of creation and how to construct using the coil, slab or pinch methods and attachment; but they have choice of how to texture, shape and color their piece,” says Tornow.


Guidelines are given to each class specific to the project, fourth grade having the most difficult project of all the grades. They formed two coil pots of equal size, pressed and melded them together, and created globe luminaries, representing how God created light and dark. Deciding what colors to paint with and then glazing the pieces to get them ready to fire are the next steps.

“I have noticed the eagerness in the kids. They can’t wait to get their hands on it! I have also noticed they find it difficult, but they also feel satisfied and challenged in a good way,” says Tornow about the reaction of the students to their projects. The third grade class worked on creating seed pods representing seed bearing plants that God created on the third day in the creation story. This involved creating two pinch pots, blending them together and adding formations to the outside to represent pods found in nature.

The third graders felt very positive about their experience:

“My favorite part of the clay was feeling how good it [the clay] felt.”

“I learned to take my time and use my mistakes.”

“I feel creative, like an artist.”

“Doing art makes me feel relaxed.”


Pepper added, “I found with clay the Lord would show me what to do with it. It’s been a relationship which I want to share with students. This is the reason I am doing what I’m doing… It’s in those quiet decisions while working we can witness the works of the Lord.”

Students are hard at work getting ready for the premier of their art pieces at the Academic Fair, April 28th at 6:30 p.m. All students will be encouraged to come to view all pieces as well as artwork created by the middle school students. Artwork will be on display in each classroom for parents, staff, and friends to admire as well as showcased during the West Seattle May Art Walk.


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