Storyteller art
(l. to r.): “Fish Tales” by Holly Vigil, “Farm” by Santana Bartholomew,  “Newton” by Joanne Lysne, and “Wolf Pack” by Shannon Krause.
Credit: UNM-LA

Three classes of ceramics students from University of New Mexico-Los Alamos have formed their concept of “storytelling” into clay for a new art show at the UNM-LA Library. The show opens Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 12 to 2 p.m. giving guests the opportunity to chat with the artists and view new perspectives on the traditional Native American storyteller figure.

“This past summer, some of my students and I were talking about telling our stories in clay,” said Barbara Yarnell, Fine Arts instructor and General Studies Department Chair. “The beautiful storytellers the Native Americans of New Mexico make was the inspiration of the Storyteller show, and the theme was a way to help teach the coil pot technique. At the beginning of the semester, I told my students to start thinking about their own stories and how they would tell them using clay.” 

All beginning ceramics students learn to make coil pots in Yarnell’s Introduction to Ceramics classes. “A coil pot is made by rolling out coils and stacking them on top of each other to make a pot,” Yarnell said. “Every semester I try to come up with new and interesting ways to teach clay forming techniques and the important coil building technique.”

Examples of some of the pieces on display include “Where Do We Find Stories,” by retired Los Alamos Elementary teacher Thelma Hahn, which depicts a big book reading to small books. Los Alamos High School dual credit student and ballet dancer Emma Thompkins created “Nutcracker Suite,” which is a ballet shoe surrounded by several dancing Nutcracker characters. Finally, there is Santana Bartholomew’s raku fired-longhorn cow holding her babies entitled titled “Farm.”

“I have quite a talented group of students. This is only the third project that my beginning students did this semester, and many of them had never worked with clay before,” Yarnell said. “About 80 percent of the show is made up of beginning students.” 

Yarnell, who has taught ceramics at UNM-LA for the past nine years and has been a professional clay artist herself for more than 40 years, is clearly passionate about encouraging her students to share her joy for the art form. “In all of my classes I talk about finding your voice in clay, which has many meanings: figuring out what shapes you like and why you like them, developing your own aesthetic, what speaks to you when you look at clay art work, deciding what you want your pieces to say.”

The UNM-LA Library, located at 4000 University Dr., is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and Friday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Storyteller show is on display through Dec. 4.