Italian visitor gives SHHS students taste of fine art

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home has a world-class potter teaching art to its high school students, but when Gelindo Ferrin really wants to put students in front of a master, he turns to nine-time world throwing champion Claudio Reginato.

Sweet Home High School art teacher Ferrin, who won the aesthetics title in the World Throwing Championships in Faenza, Italy, in 2002, invited Reginato, an Italian, to spend Monday through Wednesday last week in his classroom to throw pottery.

“Claudio makes it look really simple, but he’s been doing it for over 50 years,” Ferrin said. His father was a potter. His mother decorated pottery. His grandfather was a potter.

“He’s been doing it since before he was born,” Ferrin said.

As Reginato, 66, trimmed the dishes, vases and cups he threw during the week, Ferrin talked about Reginato and the master’s work.

When Reginato departed from Sweet Home on Thursday, he left behind a variety of pottery. That will take a week to dry, Ferrin said, and then Ferrin will fire the pieces in a kiln for eight to 16 hours. He’ll cool the pieces for another eight to 16 hours before glazing them and then firing them again for about eight hours.

When complete, they will be on display during the Art Department’s annual show and will be available for sale to raise funds for the SHHS art program.

“There’s a lot involved,” Ferrin said of making pottery by hand. “When you go to an art fair and you see plates sitting on a shelf, believe me, they spent time working on them.”

Mass-produced plates may cost a couple of bucks on a department store shelf, Ferrin said. Breaking one is no big deal. Made by machines, hundreds at a time, they have no personality.

“When you see something like this, that’s been made, think about what the artist goes through,” Ferrin said. “When you see these, think about the aesthetics, think about how or why it was made.”

Supt. Keith Winslow told the classroom that his favorite coffee cups were made by Ferrin.

Ferrin met Reginato in 1999 at a workshop.

“Claudio has been coming to the U.S. for several years,” Ferrin told his class and a handful of visiting school staff members. Reginato puts on workshops and demonstrations regularly.

“He was there making stuff,” Ferrin said, and a friend put them in contact. Ferrin and Reginato corresponded for about a year, and Ferrin arranged a couple of workshops in Arizona, where he lived at the time.

Later, Reginato invited Ferrin to visit him in Italy, in Bassano del Grappa. Ferrin stayed in Italy for seven months.

Ferrin said that Reginato goes next to Seattle for a week, then to Chicago, where he will lead a university-level workshop.

“The district has been supportive of me allowing artists to come here and work,” Ferrin said. “A lot of schools don’t give you money for things like that any more.”

The arts – including music, wood shop and metal shop – are all important to Winslow and the School Board, Winslow said. The board has gone on record that it wants to protect programs like that and make sure they remain a part of the Sweet Home lifestyle.

“I saw today that students were interested,” said Reginato. “I like when the students are interested. I think I can transmit something that is good for them. When I see the people interested, I like that something from me remains to somebody (else). I enjoy it.”

Many of the young people in his classroom would never have the opportunity to see a master at work otherwise, Ferrin said.

“I like to expose people to the arts, to see what’s possible,” he said. “I think it’s very important for young people to learn something about the arts and see a great master at work.”

Reginato previously visited Ferrin’s class in 2007.