As a child, I hated forced coloring book sessions; I felt patronized. That is my first art memory.

During my first year of high school, I reexamined my relationship with art when I began seriously working with clay. I was awful. I never wanted to do it again.

However, my counselor signed me up for two more semesters of ceramics and I was too lazy and uncomfortable to go ask her to change it.

Eventually, I began to enjoy the pieces I was making and soon fell in love with wheel-throwing. I bought my first pair of work overalls in the spring of 2015. A local potter and GC graduate, Todd Pletcher, saw the work in my senior display and was interested in having me intern for him.

That fell through, but he referred me to Mark Goertzen who hired me the day after graduation. Goertzen took over Dick Lehman’s pottery located at The Old Bag Factory in Goshen in 2010. Pottery has an extensive history in the Goshen community, and I’m proud and grateful to be a part of it.

I really feel at home working at Goertzen Pottery and am blessed to have his fantastic studio space to use. I work and learn there with Mark and Brittany, my best friend, and we have entirely too much fun.

I’ve been making different pieces in Mark’s product line for over a year now, which has allowed me to grow as a potter. It’s very beneficial to throw the same piece 16-40 times in one sitting. You really begin to familiarize yourself with the various pitfalls you can encounter in any specific piece and form the muscle memory in your fingertips, as far as application and duration of pressure.

I often apply these lessons to my own work. This summer, I was appointed head of the yarn bowl department and most recently Mark had given Brittany and me a shelf to sell our personal work in the shop.

I adore the familiarity that is inherent in functional art. I find satisfaction in making connections with people as well as the fact that they can enjoy their morning coffee or tea with a little piece of me.

Maybe one day I will tire of functional work since it can have its limits as far as gravity and message for an artist like me. I have no doubt that there are talented ceramicists out there who can use a teapot to depict the gravest aspects of the human condition and maybe I will want to slide into this role one day.

But for now, I’m satisfied with making my cheery pieces.

I enjoy throwing “tight forms,” and my style is somewhat elaborate in that I enjoy embellishments of all sorts. One thing that is common in my work (most notably, in my mugs) are what I have called ‘speed bumps’. These are thick speedbump-like strips on the piece which allow the glazes I use to play more on the surface of the pot which allows for more chances to achieve interesting drips and colors.

This is also why I enjoy adding carved or slip-trailed embellishments. I find satisfaction in symmetry, repetition and smooth textures. When I slip-trail, I think about creating delightful surfaces for touching.

I am currently working on perfecting my handles. I used to cut them from slabs and Mark told me they were garbage one day and forced me to work on my handle-pulling technique. I think I’ve made some great progress this summer, and I’m excited to see what my work will look like next year.

Irina’s work, in addition to the work of other student artists, can be purchased at the Student Art Sale on Reading Day, Monday, Dec. 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Union hallway.