By Alexandra Parado
Having the right attitude about a “no” can go a long way toward receiving a “yes.”
Being turned down can be easily discouraging, but there are some people who take rejection in stride and even use it to their advantage — Irene Yoon is an example of such a person.
Yoon, a junior deaf education and fine arts double major, started her freshman year as a deaf education and biology double major. Ceramics has always been an important part of Yoon’s life, but since she came to the College, she began to integrate this hobby into her academic life.
Every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Yoon holds a ceramics workshop in the AIMM building that is open to all students and faculty.
“When I was a freshman, I hadn’t had access to a studio since high school,” she said.
Yoon begun taking ceramics classes during her sophomore year in high school at The Art School at Old Church in Demarest, New Jersey. This interest was sparked by a family friend, who recommended Yoon to take ceramics classes to develop well-rounded skills.
“Clay to me is very therapeutic,” she said. “If I didn’t have clay, I would probably need a therapist. It’s just meditative. I was very stressed because college just started and I knew if I had clay, I would be less stressed.”
Yoon contacted the art department and requested to use the studio. Even though she was refused access, she was determined to try again –– she needed ceramics as her therapeutic and creative outlet. To strengthen her argument, she collected a handful of photos of her work and made an informal portfolio to send back to the department.
“The chair at the time asked me to hold workshops and in exchange, I could use the studio whenever I want,” she said.
Every Wednesday at the beginning of class, Yoon greets each student without fail, even if she is in the middle of creating something on the wheel that requires great attention to detail.
“She makes me feel so welcomed,” said senior accounting major Brigitte Vuong. “The friends who brought me to the workshop have only been there once before me, and Irene already knew their names and did her best to remember mine.”
Sofia Roman, a senior psychology major, heard about Yoon’s workshop through a flyer posted on Snapchat and has attended every class since the beginning of the semester.
“From the first day, I loved her class,” she said. “Since then, she has been a really great teacher trying to help us progress in a natural pace. She knows a lot about ceramics. She was very informative about it while also making the class really fun.”
Yoon always makes sure to play music during class, which helps create a lively environment. As students are focusing on perfecting their clay creations, they are also singing along to Ed Sheeran.
“It’s hard not to have a good time in her class,” Roman said. “When I’m not focusing on shaping my clay on the wheel, my friends and I are laughing… how else do you respond when Irene tells you to throw the clay down on the wheel really hard as if you were mad at your boyfriend? She has a great sense of humor.”
Students appreciate the opportunity to learn a new skill while bonding with their friends in a fun, welcoming environment.
“It’s a great place to learn and socialize,” Vuong said. “I’m so glad my friends introduced me to the ceramics workshop because I’ve met new people while playing with clay — something I don’t normally do.”
The studio’s eight wheels fill up quickly at the beginning of each class, and students make sure to get there early so they do not have to wait to use a wheel.
In a room filled with students at different levels of ceramics experience, there is still a united atmosphere. Whether there is a beginner learning how to center their clay or an expert finishing an advanced project, students encourage each other to improve.
Instead of comparing or competing with each other, students are reminded to create and love the craft. The outcome of their efforts may at times be uncertain, but for Yoon, the process itself is worth it.
“My favorite part is the doing,” she said. “I don’t make to have something at the end. I do it because I like the process.”