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Working the clay

Retired art teacher shares the art of ceramics with her neighbors

Created date

April 5th, 2017
Won Yin spent her career as a ceramics teacher. Now that she lives at Riderwood, she continues to teach ceramics to her neighbors.

Won Yin spent her career as a ceramics teacher. Now that she lives at Riderwood, she continues to teach ceramics to her neighbors.

One of the most exciting things about living at Riderwood are the many opportunities for continuous learning. The community partners with Prince George’s Community College to provide on-site lifelong learning classes. And since so many of the people who live at Riderwood are retired professors, accomplished artists, and professionals with rich experience, many of the courses are taught by residents.

Won Yin, a retired art teacher, taught a class called “Art of Ceramics” last year at Riderwood. Almost 90 residents enrolled in the course. 

Discovering a natural talent

One of Won’s students was fellow neighbor Clark Garner, who is a former interior designer and a professor emeritus of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University. While his career intersected with the arts, Clark hadn’t worked with clay since he was in high school.

“I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” Clark says of his decision to try his hand at ceramics.

And indeed, he could do it—very well, in fact. Clark created a sculpture of his then ten-year-old grandson Cullen, which bears great resemblance to the boy.

“My enjoyment of ceramics comes from the satisfaction of setting a goal and achieving it,” Clark says. “And then there’s the social aspect of the classes. Being with friends who share a common interest is terrific.”

Clark has also created colorful jewelry, plates, bowls, lamp stands, and mirrors. 

Annual exhibition

He and other students from Won’s class displayed their work at the annual “Art of Ceramics” exhibition last November, which was attended by many neighbors as well as family members and friends. Clark used his design background to turn one of the classrooms at Riderwood into a showroom.

“With a meticulous eye, Clark did a wonderful job of enhancing the artists’ work with a beautiful color scheme and a light-hearted theme of origami cranes throughout that brought smiles to those in attendance,” Won says.

Won has a degree in design from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in art education from the University of Maryland. She taught ceramics in the Montgomery County public school system and had a studio and reduction kiln in her home. Won says it is a privilege to be able to continue to teach during her retirement as a lifelong learning instructor at Riderwood.

“Although we develop technical and design skills, there’s nothing like seeing unique ideas come to life. I may know a little bit more about clay, but these residents are my teachers too,” she says. “Whether it’s gratitude or patience, I learn from everyone in the class, and together, we’re always helping each other and thinking about the next project.”