This past school year, Chagrin Falls High School art teacher, Libby Harrold, invited local artist Kristen Cliffel to work with three classes of ceramic students and one class of portfolio students to help them create a ceramic food narrative sculpture. Cliffel came as a part of a two-week residency through the Ohio Arts Council.
Harrold met Cliffel through a summer ceramics course at the Cleveland Institute of Art that Cliffel taught. Harrold found out Cliffel taught in the classroom setting with art educators through the Ohio Arts Council. “Kristen only completes residencies with teachers she has a prior connection or relationship with, so I was fortunate enough to gain her approval prior to the OAC application process,” said Harrold.
Cliffel earned a BFA in Ceramics from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1990 and has since been the recipient of the 2015 Individual Award of Excellence through the Ohio Arts Council and the 2016 Cleveland Arts Prize for a Mid-career Artist Award. Her work is displayed in private and public collections in areas such as University Hospitals, Rainbow Babies, Metro General Hospital, Lutheran Hospital and Hahn, and the Cleveland Clinic. Her work is large-scale and uses bright colors and surfaces.
The first week of residency was from April 25th – 28th and May 1st. This week was spent working on clay construction, textural details, and realistic sculpture rendering. Week two from May 8th – 11th and 15th, was spent on the glazing process, color schemes and relationships, and the sculpture completion.
The residency began with Cliffel discussing her work, intentions, and life story. She worked individually with students on a daily basis to improve their technical skills and understand the student’s design and narrative intentions. When planning their narrative food sculpture, students were asked to think about questions such as: Who will be eating the food? Where is your food? What is the size of your sculpture? What is the time lapse shown in your food sculpture, that is, is your sculpture half-eaten or melted, etc.? Cliffel especially encouraged students to create a “stage” for their sculpture so that viewers had evidence of their narrative.
During week two of residency, Cliffel and Harrold hosted a community outreach event for CFHS staff members and art teachers from Orange High School to join in a ceramic workshop. There, attendees learned the glazing process of majolica on a ceramic travel mug. “This provided attendees an opportunity to engage in the creative process and come together in an appreciation for art programs and the value they hold in education,” said Harrold.
On the final day of residency, Cliffel had a reflective discussion with students about their own works and progress as artists. Harrold’s goal with the residency was to introduce students to a professional ceramic artist and allow them to directly apply feedback from Cliffel to their artistic vision. The students benefited from Cliffel’s knowledge, expertise, and hands-on experience. Harrold also benefited from Cliffel’s visit. She said, “Kristen provided knowledgeable feedback on ways to better organize space in my classroom, specific ceramic tools to add to the curriculum, various firing methods with my new kiln, and upcoming workshops to attend as an artist and an art educator.”
Pictured In Cover Photo: Chagrin Falls High School junior, Eneh Turoczi and advanced ceramics student, works with Artist Kristen Cliffel on technique perfection to improve the form of her vase in her sculpture entitled, "Egg Plant", where eggs are later positioned as flowers in a vase.