What IB Ceramics at George School Taught Me

by Autumn Atkinson ’13

When I officially became an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma candidate three years ago, so many doors opened for me. The IB program was rigorous and sometimes made you want to quit, but after all of the examinations were over and the diploma was in your hands all of the hard work and dedication suddenly became worth it. For me, I have no doubt that all of the energy the IB diploma required has definitely paid off, thanks to my hard work I have enough credits to graduate college in three years and to earn my masters degree in the fourth year.

Though there appears to be a lot of emphasis on the exam results, I learned that the program isn’t about the scores you get; it’s about what you learn. In each of my classes I was presented with challenging material that was engaging and current—we were never given busy work.

My favorite class was IB HL Ceramics with Amedeo Salamoni. For two years I spent every free moment in the ceramics studio improving my technique to make my pieces finer in order to create my IB portfolio. Since I was in the diploma program I was able to explore ceramics freely and make what my hands desired. When the class was making boxes, I was on the porcelain wheel making tiny bowls or adding decals to bisque fired pieces. I spent so many hours in the studio producing delicate work that Amedeo submitted two of my pieces to the 16th annual National K12 Ceramic Exhibition, and both of them were accepted. For my work, I was awarded the Lucy Roy Memorial Scholarship.

Making a cohesive collection of pottery and keeping a research journal were two of the major IB requirements. In the journal I was supposed record my investigation of ceramic artists, history, culture, and how these things related to my own work. This was my least favorite part of the course, but looking back, it would have been lacking without it. Researching your art and finding out what other artists are doing is essential, otherwise your art will exist in isolation and the process won’t be informed. After I sent in my journal for examination, I realized my research had made me a better artist.

The best part of the two year course was the collaboration with Amedeo. Every day I asked questions and he never became impatient. He was always so full of ideas and willing to help when something wasn’t going right. He was always excited about my projects and offered constructive criticism. With Amedeo as my teacher, I felt that I was making real art.

Before graduation all IB Art students put their work on display. When my pieces were behind the glass shelf in the Mollie Dodd Anderson Library I felt so proud of all the work I had done and the way my show had come together. Everything I learned about ceramics during the course—from centering and cleaning the wheel to trimming and glazing techniques—was evident in my show. Each piece embodied three years of dedication to art.

When the IB scores finally came out I was disappointed not to receive my predicted scores, but a year later the numbers don’t matter to me. I learned so much about ceramics—not just how to make a bowl but how to create, critique, and refine. These are skills that go beyond the studio that I will take with me forever.

I’m not studying art in college, but that doesn’t mean I don’t apply the skills I learned through IB ceramics to all my courses. Aside from the technical and aesthetic elements of ceramics, I found that when you put all of your focus and energy into one thing the result is sure to be rewarding. My IB Ceramics experience instilled the idea that hard work and dedication are extremely important to any area of study and that being able to accept failure and learn from your mistakes is essential to success.

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Filed under Alumni, Life After George School

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