The Fremont Podcast

Episode 100: Crafting Communities through Ceramics with Jake Rodenkirk

December 01, 2023 Ricky B Season 2 Episode 100
The Fremont Podcast
Episode 100: Crafting Communities through Ceramics with Jake Rodenkirk
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how a chunk of clay can morph into a piece of art that unites a community? This episode unravels that fascinating journey with our passionate guest, Jake Rodenkirk, a ceramics teacher at Washington High School in Fremont, California. We get candid about his unique path to becoming a ceramics teacher, the struggles of securing funds for art programs.

We explore how ceramics transforms not just clay, but perspectives and priorities too. From heartening stories of students who found solace in ceramic classes to athletes and valedictorians who bonded over pottery, we cover it all. 

Take a virtual tour with us as we navigate through the world of ceramics. From classrooms to markets, from personal growth to fostering a sense of community, ceramics has its own story to tell. And as an added bonus, don't miss out on our special story of a coffee shop-ceramic artist collaboration that brewed over a cup of Joe. So, grab your headphones, and let’s get started on this journey of transformation, creativity, and unity.

Check out our new podcast focused on Niles CA called the Cast of Niles. You can find episodes on almost any podcast platform. You can also find it here.

Also, Petrocelli Homes has been a key sponsor for the Fremont Podcast almost from the beginning. If you are looking for help or advice about buying or selling a home, or if you are looking for a realtor, get in touch with Petrocelli Homes on Niles Blvd in Niles.

Additionally, Banter Bookshop is the best little bookshop in Fremont. They are a sponsor of that podcast. And we are excited to have them as a partner.

Intro and Outro voiceovers made by Gary Williams. Check out garywilliams.org.

This episode was edited by Andrew C.

Scheduling and background was done by Sara S.

This is a Muggins Media Podcast.

Speaker 1:

I'm Gary Williams. Your reviews help other people find this podcast. If you would please leave a review on iTunes.

Speaker 2:

The Eloni College flea market is happening every second Saturday of the month from 9 am to 3 pm on Eloni's Fremont campus. Hey Van, Are there any promotions that the vendor should know about?

Speaker 3:

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Speaker 2:

Anything else.

Speaker 3:

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Speaker 2:

Have you seen anything? Things pop out, but you've got to walk the whole flea market before you pull the trigger on anything. It's just interesting to see what's out there, and you never know what you'll find.

Speaker 3:

We are ready to open up Olive Way for vendors, so we're really, really, really excited about it. So we are looking for vendors that wants to vend underneath our beautiful and historical olive trees. So for the Olive Way spaces, it's approximately 15 by 15, so it's a little bit bigger than our regular spaces and the exciting part is they're only $20 per space.

Speaker 2:

So that six-month promotion is for next year, but people can come by this year and lock it in.

Speaker 3:

Yes, that is exactly correct.

Speaker 2:

And if people want to contact you, how do they get in touch?

Speaker 3:

So our phone number is 510-659-6285 and the email is fleamarketataloneedu. More information can be found at aloneyedu slash flea-market.

Speaker 5:

So people are in such different places in life and there's so many pulls and stresses on kids that something that doesn't involve your phone, something that's hands-on, that's gratifying because you can see your own progress, something that there's a level playing field. There are some kids who your parents teach them math from an early age, so they're always a little step ahead. Nobody does this. So I've got AP students, I've got the valedictorian sitting next to kids who flunked math last year.

Speaker 1:

Coming to you straight from Fremont, california, this is the Fremont podcast, dedicated to telling the stories of the past and present of the people and places of the city of Fremont, one conversation at a time.

Speaker 2:

Only 100 episodes, Ricky.

Speaker 1:

Now here's your host, Ricky.

Speaker 4:

B. I'm real excited I have Jake Rodenkirk with me today. He is somebody that I've actually heard about quite a bit before I ever met him, and we met this, I don't know, within the last six to eight months or so, but Jake is the ceramics teacher for Washington High School and there's a lot of different ways that I was first introduced to who he was before I met him, but one of those ways is that we were actually we were just talking about it that he made the mugs that you use whenever you go to Devout Coffee, and so when we, when I first started coming to Devout Coffee, they would tell me, oh, these mugs are made by the local ceramics teacher at Washington High School. And so I was like, oh cool, I don't think we ever met at that point. But anyway, jake is with me today and I want to kind of explore what he does in our community, because I think it's pretty cool, and get to know. I want to get to know you a little bit more, jake, and share that with the listeners here, so welcome to the three of my podcasts.

Speaker 5:

That sounds great. Thank you for having me. It's wonderful.

Speaker 4:

Cool, so you are the ceramics teacher at Washington High School? Yeah, at.

Speaker 5:

Washington High School. This is my 11th year teaching and you know I start with just. I got the job by just one of those almost unbelievable circumstances. It's not easy to get a full time ceramics teaching position. They're pretty hard to come by, not every school has them. So I feel really fortunate to be the teacher here in Fremont. But the principal at the school went to the same college I did for his art education. My principal was an art teacher before too and he got my name from one of his teachers and it was her last year retiring. It was my last year before I graduated and the timing just worked out so well I didn't apply for the job. He emailed me cold and said I heard about you, would you like a job? And you know I have friends in Livermore and in Pleasanton who had been looking for a full time position for over five years and couldn't find one doing part-time they do ceramics as well. Yeah, they're ceramics teachers, and they're looking for like a full time high school or full time middle school, and just trying to find something, and I literally like just fell into it. And I found it afterwards that a really close friend of mine accepted the job but because of miscommunication turned it down and took a job in Palo Alto. So one of my close friends who I went to college with, was going to take this job, so it just seemed like everything was pushing me towards.

Speaker 2:

Fremont and pushing other people away.

Speaker 5:

So I feel great being here. Like I said, it's my 11th year, so it just feels like it's been the blink of an eye.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so you mentioned that you went to the same college as the principal there. Did you grow up around here as well, or where did you grow up? Where was it that you like, like, did you transition to Fremont from somewhere else, or how did you get around to the area here?

Speaker 5:

Well, originally I moved to California when I was 10 years old. I'm originally from Iowa, from Cedar Rapids, iowa, and I moved here with my parents. They got a job in Pleasanton and so we moved there. That was like middle school. I did middle school in Pleasanton and then in high school I started doing ceramics and I you know it's. I tell the kids in my class the story every year because it's kind of the reason that I teach is kind of bundled with how I kind of stumbled into doing ceramics. You know, most people decide when they're younger if they are good at art or they like art or not, and I was one of those kids early on. I remember in first grade I had a crush on this girl and she was the best, best at drawing in the class and so I wanted to like during art time, sit next to her and I just felt terrible because I could not draw and I was embarrassed and wanted her to see it. And from kind of that time on, like five, six years old, I just avoided art things and I would. Oh, if you know, I tried not to take art classes, but you have to take one art class in high school to graduate. And so my counselor thank you, whoever it was, whoever it was put me in a ceramics class and I avoided doing it because it was art. I was dating a girl in the class at the time. We broke up. It was awkward, so I had to sit somewhere else. I sat at the pottery wheels and a nice kid, tommy Kuzurik, showed me how to make pots and I fell in love with it after about a week of really trying and applying myself. And I bought a pottery wheel over the summer on eBay and my mom didn't know what I was doing, but I put it in my bedroom. I made a gigantic mess, gigantic epic mess. And you know I, my senior year of high school, bribed the, the what do you call them? The registrar who sends it kids up for the classes I bribed, or some pottery, they. Let me take ceramics for four out of the six class.

Speaker 4:

Oh, wow.

Speaker 5:

Wow, I had a wheel at home.

Speaker 4:

That must have been some bribe.

Speaker 5:

Well, I was a lot of pottery. I promised her whatever she wants, the whole year.

Speaker 4:

There you go, there you go A solid bribe.

Speaker 5:

So, yeah, I got to be a TA, retake ceramics. One. Take ceramics. Two, take a studio art class, which is kind of something else. So I I lived it in high school and I realized that art isn't just drawing and painting, it's not just the flat 2D stuff that can be more physical and it was something I'd never done in really in school before. And so the roundabout of that is now, when I teach class, my favorite thing is to find the kids who are like me, who they can't draw maybe, or aren't good at drawing or don't find fulfillment in drawing. But even in high school by this, by the time that they're 15, 16, they maybe have never tried something that's more sculptural or they haven't tried like a pottery wheel, and it's a totally different set of skills and so watching kids kind of discover that and kind of get hooked on it like I did in high school, it's the most fulfilling part of the job because I know what it's like to be that kid. So, I've got a kid right now in my class who there's a few of them, but there's one and ever since the first day he was started the class he's like when are we going to do the pottery wheel? And after the first day I could just see, like you know, light in his eyes and the next day I can tell when he's working. He'd been watching pottery YouTube videos. I could just you know.

Speaker 3:

I could see different things I hadn't taught him. I was like you've been watching videos all night.

Speaker 5:

He's like. I watched him this morning too and he's in the class, you know, during lunch. He's there after school. He's brought three or four friends to teach him and he's just all in and you know, it's just that's kind of that full circle thing that is really fulfilling as a teacher.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, that's awesome. Actually, I want to use that as a transition to something just to talk about in the school system and not that I want to get into school politics or anything like that. But if I understand correctly, I mean you're a paid teacher at the school, but the program is not necessarily supported financially entirely. Is that correct?

Speaker 5:

Yeah, you know the way that schools fund different programs. There's a whole like almost like an economy around it. There's grant writing and there are state grants, school grants you can apply for, like private scholarships for teachers. You can, you know, appeal to the school board to give you money. There's all these different more like meetings and business and forms and basically papers that you write and submit and they get approved.

Speaker 4:

And that isn't my speed, so the pottery bribe of the senior year can only go so far my through line is kind of just make you something.

Speaker 5:

So you know, the no child left behind policy started under George Bush in the early 2000s. It made it against the law to require, basically, lab fees in class, functionally meaning that you can ask for donations, but like when I was in high school or was in the middle of going to high school, like I took a photography class, there was a $50 lab that you had to pay. Yeah, and if you couldn't pay it, you go to the office and say financially we can't do that, and then there's an exception made for you, but the expectation is that you pay. And now it's kind of flipped and it's been that way for since I've been a teacher. So right now my budget for the class is I get $200 a year to pay for materials, supplies, maintenance of equipment.

Speaker 4:

So you are, so you teach ceramics. How many students do you have?

Speaker 5:

I have right now I have, I believe, 197.

Speaker 4:

197 students, you could pay $200 for all the supplies and everything you need.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, that's like if a part of a pottery wheel breaks, like there's like a belt, if the belt snaps, that's part of the $200. If the kiln needs new parts, if I need new glaze, new clay, if I want to buy pencils, if I want to buy an X-Acto knife, I roughly get. What I tell everyone as a shorthand is I get $1 per student per year. Wow yeah.

Speaker 4:

So, so, We'll be right back. You can hear the rest of this conversation in just a moment. You can find them off the corner of Thornton Avenue and Fremont Boulevard in Centerville. Jimby Electric exists to empower your production. If you're a business owner, you know there's nothing that you want more than to focus on what you do best so that you can grow your business. Don't let electrical problems or projects stop you from your greatest production. Call Jimby Electric and let them help you empower your production today and now back to our conversation. So I want to come to the question then. So you've been doing this for 11 years at. Washington High School. You were impacted. Obviously you've already shared your story about when you were a teenager, when you were in high school, how it affected you personally. Do you think that what you are bringing to Washington High School students is worth having? I mean, do you think it's worth investing in the program that you were running, based on your experience?

Speaker 5:

Well, yeah, I mean, you know, it's easy, it's hard for me to ask, because you're doing it, obviously. I'm gonna. I mean, I love that question, of course. Yes, I think it's super valuable. I think it's valuable for a lot of reasons. Getting here today, I had to kick kids out of the classroom because they're so excited to do something at school.

Speaker 4:

And just to be clear, like right now it's 5 30 pm and so you just came over here from the school and you had to kick kids out of the classroom, yeah, and so, like I was here, I was in my classroom.

Speaker 5:

We didn't have school on a Friday, it was a three-day weekend Friday, saturday, sunday and on Friday and Saturday they were kids there for eight hours. When I was there the kids left, you know, when it gets dark out, every day there's kids two hours after school in my classroom.

Speaker 4:

And what are they? Are they just?

Speaker 5:

making things. They're teaching their friends how to make stuff. We're talking, they're asking questions about something. I tell a lot of parents there's, you know, about 20-30 kids that I spend more time with those kids probably than their parents do. Wow, just because I'll spend three or four hours a day with them, because they come in at lunch and after school and we have like a flex time. But you know, there's a lot of reasons. I think it's valuable. I think it's valuable because it showed me, it gave, I mean it personally gave me the thing that I love to do and want to do. It's my hobby, it's my job, it's my passion, it's my, it's a lot for me and I got that from my ceramics class and from my ceramics teacher, to whom, to whom I'm grateful. But also there's a lot of kids who feel anxious at school or don't feel like they kind of fit in that system. And they fit in my class and if it's because of the subject or if it's because of me, I'm sure there's a lot of different reasons. But I mean I teaching, I get a lot of interaction with a lot of people, a couple thousand students. I could tell you a hundred stories of kids and their parents who thank me in tears because their kid doesn't feel like they belong or they feel like they're bad at school but because of this art class. It gave them direction, it made them feel like they have worth. It makes them feel like they're not dumb, it makes them feel talented in front of their peers, it makes them fit. I had a parent last year calling me in tears because her daughter was considering committing suicide. The only thing that she wanted to wake up for was ceramics class. So you know, people are in such different places in life and there's so many pulls and stresses on kids that something that doesn't involve your phone, something that's hands-on, that's gratifying because you can see your own progress, something that there's a level playing field. There are some kids who your parents teach the math from an early age, so they're always a little step ahead. Nobody does this. So I've got AP students. I've got the valedictorian sitting next to kids who flung to math last year.

Speaker 4:

I was gonna ask you that. I mean I was gonna ask you, do you have like a niche group of people like you're the oh, those are the, those are the ceramic students, or oh, those are the potters, or do you have kind of a mixed batch? I mean, do you like? And you just kind of answered that you have the valedictorian sitting next to the flunkie or whatever.

Speaker 5:

So you know it's interesting because the class draws a lot of different kinds of people. They have to take an art class to graduate. So you know some of them take it because they have to. They hear Mr R is what they call me. They say he's funny or the class is really fun. There's not homework because they don't take the clay home, usually with them.

Speaker 3:

Whatever?

Speaker 5:

the kids take classes for different reasons but yeah, the variety is great. There are, you know, kids who are in band, there are the athletes who are in the class, but everyone kind of works together and you can kind of tell on campus who's in ceramics, because you can. You can see on my clothes that people can't listen, but you get clay on you sometimes and so the kids who have like clay on their pants or like a little bit clay on their shirt, they walk around and everyone knows it's a ceramics kid and I love when I was in high school. You know this might be it's a kind of a dated reference for some, for younger people, but like pig pen from yeah from Charlie Brown, yeah from. Charlie Brown, that was always me. I get up out of a chair and be a little dust pocket on that chair, little clouds behind me, or if I clap my hands, dust comes off. And that was always me in high school. I was the kid in my senior year who had like clay on their clothes or whatever. And some kids are like, oh, I don't get clay on me, but midway through the year it's kind of like that shows that they're a ceramics kid and so some of them like it and they kind of embrace it. They don't try to wear an apron or something to stay clean, they just kind of go with it. And I love it because for me also, I was very vain in high school. I cared, you know, I matched all my clothes, ironed all my clothes, plucked my eyebrows, matched my earrings to my clothes, you know, got my hair cut every every other week. I was just very into how I looked and ceramics it's really hard to stay clean when you're doing ceramics and I'm doing it 10-12 hours a day, and so just my like, my priorities changed Wow, and I think it was healthy for a young guy not to stare in a mirror as often as I was.

Speaker 4:

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Speaker 3:

You've been doing this for 11 years.

Speaker 4:

I'm just wondering if maybe some of the students have you had students come back or have? You had significant reports of students who've come back from maybe the early years, when you were first starting out a decade ago, that have come back and have testified of perhaps the significance of what you taught when they were in school.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, you know, I mean just today.

Speaker 1:

yes, Okay, today yes.

Speaker 5:

No, pretty much every week someone comes back or talks to me. This week On Sunday I was in my classroom after church. I went back in to finish up some stuff and a student was picking up. Who graduated was picking up and this is just one anecdote of what happened two days ago. I can tell you 100. People who met their wives in my class, who met a military person. This year I've helped people get a couple jobs, learn how to apply for jobs. I have so much contact with my former students and I could just I mean gosh. I have students who their careers in ceramics that their teachers in ceramics in the school district in Fremont Unified that they'll say they're an art teacher because I was their art teacher right, and they liked how I did it. They wanted to have like you, look like you, like what you do, and that was a big contributing factor to their profession. But the kid I had this Sunday, he is going to San Jose State as well and he comes back on the weekend to visit his family and he was like you know, I just really miss ceramics class, I miss making things. I didn't realize how much you know. I just really enjoyed like not being such a digital thing and I'm an engineering major and I just feel like I'm bogged down with all this computer work and I just feel like I just need to do something. That's like the opposite of that, you know, and I was encouraging him to take the class at San Jose State and he was just telling me how much he appreciated it and he's telling his brother when he is a junior he should take the class. And is there a place he could buy a wheel or is there a studio I know of that he could take classes in? And we talked for like two hours and he was just asking a million questions and talking about how much he appreciated the class, especially since he'd been gone for two years, how much he realized he missed it and the opportunity that it was Wow wow. You know this is random, I didn't tell you, but it comes up today's, my birthday.

Speaker 4:

Oh, my goodness, I did not know that I know, thanks, yeah, I'm 37. That's awesome happy birthday Thanks, thanks, Everyone stop listening if you're listening right now. Stop and wish Jake a happy birthday. Happy birthday, yeah, that's awesome, that's great.

Speaker 5:

But I only mention it because I had a couple students former students who knew it was my birthday who messaged me this morning. One of them, she lives in the East Coast. She was my first TA, so from 10 years ago, wow. And you know I could go on her story for an hour on the impact that we've made on each other. But you know she's working for the DEA in North Carolina as a forensic psychologist I'm sorry, a forensic chemist.

Speaker 4:

Okay.

Speaker 5:

And the way that she found that career path and these little things. I was part of that whole thing. I was in her adjustment to college. We kept in contact. But there's probably 150 students that I keep in contact with from previous years or keep in contact with me Because I do like local sales around Fremont. If I'm at the Fremont Festival of the Arts in the summer or the Niles Antique Fair in the late summer, the Mission Aula Festival, if I'm at one of those events, all my former students and their parents come by. I constantly am seeing them. They come back to visit. They move back to Fremont. I see them all the time. I had a student his name's Fernando. He was from my second year and he got a job in Seattle working for a company called Mud Shark doing ceramics and being a business person with him and he came back, lives in the city, met his girlfriend who also does ceramics. They live together in San Francisco. They bought a whale and a kiln and needed advice on how to start their own little thing to sell pots. And then a parent of one of my students was in San Francisco at some kind of event, saw that they were selling ceramics. Their daughter took ceramics, so went over and said, hey, that's great. And they found that that was one of my former students. Take a picture and send it to me, and so there's just so many little full circle, events that happen, that you know, I realize that you know, sometimes day to day, I don't think what does this matter, I'm just making a difference in the scheme of things. But it's the stories that I get back from three years ago, kids saying that was the class that made me feel sane in high school, and they have the confidence to share that three years after.

Speaker 4:

Wow, that's awesome. So you mentioned that you have sales Occasionally. You're also take part in the local festivals that we have going on around the city and so on. I just want to be clear that, if I understand correctly, the reason you do those sales is not necessarily because you're making need to make more money for yourself, but you are doing those things to help fund the program. I mean because the $200, if anybody is listening to this $200 is obviously not enough to be able to provide what is necessary in order to be able to do the program that you're doing. So you, like, I saw you at the Festival of the Arts in August. You were, you were here and the antique fair and then yeah, like you mentioned, there's other places that you set up shop and you sell. I think I was over at your studio or over at the classroom a month or two ago and you were selling stuff for I don't know, was it mothers, I can't remember.

Speaker 5:

That was last year.

Speaker 4:

Mother's.

Speaker 3:

Day was yeah.

Speaker 4:

So it's just so you are doing those sales for the purpose of raising funds to be able to provide what you need in order to teach your kids in your classroom. Is that correct?

Speaker 5:

Yeah, you know, there's a part of me that wants to, the part of me that wants to be humble and understate what I do, because I don't want it to be just about me. But I also, at the same time, want to be kind of clear. $1 isn't enough. It's a practical joke. The schools are all funded in Fremont differently. That is not the budget for Irving Tanner mission. Mission's budget is about 30 times mine.

Speaker 4:

OK.

Speaker 5:

The teacher. There is a former student of mine and I'm her mentor teacher and I've been helping her teach her class and she comes over and I go over to her school and help her out, but I haven't made money from selling pottery personally. In 11 years I have raised.

Speaker 4:

And most of the pottery, if not all of you, the pottery that you sell is stuff that you make. It's all stuff that I've made.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I've made pottery and then sold that pottery and then put that money in the school account. Just in that, a little over $130,000.

Speaker 4:

Like in the entire time you've worked with.

Speaker 5:

I've raised more money than that because I've also invested my money from my paycheck. But, that's just money that I created from my skill and talent being going through the clay and I get free clay that's recycled from other places. I make all the glazes. I do a lot so that the profit margin's even higher, but the work of it. I work 75 hours a week and I get paid for 35.

Speaker 4:

Wow, yeah, I was going to say you were just saying you were at the classroom on Sunday and that's not a school day.

Speaker 5:

No, and after this I'm going to go back and finish what I'm doing. I made on your birthday after 6 o'clock at night. Yeah, I'll be there till 10 o'clock at night on my birthday by myself making pots, because that's what, and the thing is, it's not a suffering thing.

Speaker 4:

It's not Sure you enjoy it.

Speaker 5:

It's what I enjoy doing. It makes me feel fulfilled and satisfied. I can listen to some music or I listen to a podcast and I work with my hands as a product afterwards and it's not a woe is me story. I feel like I said from the beginning I feel like everything aligned for me to get this job. And I'm grateful, but it is true that the program is comically underfunded. It costs at the lowest I could run it for and I run it cheaper than everybody Because I hustle at every stage. I learned how to repair all the equipment so that I wouldn't have to pay the $70 an hour to have the repair guy come out right. It's only $70 an hour, only $70 a night. It's pretty cheap, right, it is, yeah, but I do the sales also and because one of my favorite parts about pottery is seeing people use my work Right now, when I come to Devout Coffee and Niles and I walk in, it has never stopped bringing me joy seeing someone drink out of my cup take a picture of it and post it online. So the satisfaction I have of making something and then seeing someone appreciate it, use it, value it, watching someone buy one in front of me in line, it never gets old. And it's not an ego stroke, it's just a sense of wonder that I took something out of like I mean, I took dirt and I rubbed it with my hands and it turned into something someone wants to buy. And it just seems like in a world of AI and computers everywhere that that still happens. It just makes me just overjoyed, and so the best thing is getting to set up a sale and then every single thing that sells. I meet the person, I talk to them, I tell them where it was made or why I made it. I have interactions with people I'm sure there are people who are listening to this, who bought something for me at a sale and talked to me at an event, and that part of it for me is the community, the sense of making a big city like Fremont, with a larger population, small, and the fantasy in my head when I was a kid is like being a village potter, being a guy in a small town. Everyone, if you need a bowl, you gotta get this. There's a guy.

Speaker 4:

This is where you get it. There's a guy.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, and that's not really a practical, I kind of like modern convenience, but the idea of being the guy who makes the things. This is the guy who makes the shoes, this is the guy who fixes the pots. This is the guy who fixes the chimneys. That's awesome. But yeah, I love selling things, but it is. I have kids sell things. I had a meeting today with the Ceramics Club. We're getting ready for a Christmas sale or a winter sale that we do the week before our school gets out. So I think it's the third week of December.

Speaker 4:

Well, this episode, if it goes out when I plan for it, it'll probably be the first week of December. So if you guys are listening to this, we'll have information available for you to be able to find out about the sale so that you can help invest. But the sale will help the classroom.

Speaker 5:

It'll raise money for supplies fix equipment.

Speaker 4:

So it'll be the third week. You said December.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, so all the schools in Fremont get out the same time and it's usually like a couple of days before Christmas time usually it's around like the 20th or something that school gets out and then the schools are out for two and a half weeks. The week right before that I have a sale the week long in my classroom and, yeah, I can give you all the specific information. I should have brought that here. That's right. I've done it every year. Besides the sales I do outside the school, I usually do three to five sales on campus every year as well, and it's honestly like the kind of the to put a bow on that part of it is. It's my way of fundraising that I enjoy doing. It makes me happy. It's not the most time efficient, it's not the most energy efficient way to do it, but I don't want to write a grant to the state, have it be rejected a couple of times, go to a grant writing class and go through that whole process, and so I really enjoy meeting people, showing them the work that I make, having them value ceramics, having them come back the next year and say I bought this, I wanted another one, my daughter broke it. She's done a lot of touch. This next one I'm buying. I gave one to my brother and he says he needs more. All those stories. Let me know that the things that I make I've made well over 10,000 things in Fremont and so all those things exist in the world and the amount of times I meet people and they have something of mine at their house or someone bought them something. It happened last week. Somebody was telling me a lady in the office she got a job and it's her second year and she was saying, oh yeah, I had this really nice cup at my house and I didn't know where it came from. My husband said he bought it from some guy in Fremont and she's like it was you. Your name's on it and I mean it happens so often that someone their favorite cup they've been using for a few years we meet. And then it's like I made that and they want to show me pictures of it and tell me how great it is. And I don't care about that. I just the idea that something I made is in their life. It's important to them. It has intrinsic value, not like you can go on Amazon and buy it, but this thing and I have a relationship every day that to me it's like I'm invading people's houses a little. I'm sure it's how people feel when they're on a podcast and that you know that people are listening to you and they hear your voice and they may be recognized. It's just this we're connected, yeah that's right, I was just.

Speaker 4:

I wrote on the Niles train of lights last night it was able to get tickets on their test ride through the Chamber of Commerce. So shout out to the Chamber of Commerce. But you got some pull like that now, yeah, yeah yeah, but I was on there and people, I noticed people as I was talking to people that I knew and they turned and looked at me and they're like I know that voice.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 4:

I listened to your podcast and so, yeah, so that's exactly right. You're like just in some ways, what you do has a broader effect, into people's homes and into their spaces, to where you feel like you have a relationship with that person via whatever the medium is that you are connected with. So, yeah, that's exactly right. That's cool. So if I'm listening to this, it makes me wanna go back to high school and learn ceramics. I have good friends who have been doing ceramics. I have a friend that I went to college with, who moved out here, and she does ceramics in San Francisco, and I've told you of my friend that lives in Oxford, england, and she has her own ceramics business. Honestly, it seems like it'd be something that I would love to do and it does also seem like being a high school teacher, especially trying to fund your own program. It seems like it's a lot of work to do. But I'm just curious are there opportunities for people who are outside of high school? Are there opportunities for people who are in the community that would like to cause? As far as I know, I don't think we have a ceramics studio in Fremont. And I mean 250,000 people, and there's not even one to offer here, right?

Speaker 5:

No, there really isn't. There's a couple really small community programs that are more geared towards like small children and like an introduction to like an art kind of class where there's a bunch of arts.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, actually I'll throw that out there, jeanine Pietpitta, who she? I interviewed her, or I didn't. Yeah, I did interview her for the podcast here. She's here in Niles and she loved doing ceramics in college and went away from it for a while, and I just saw on Instagram that she was starting to make ceramics. I think she was doing that with kids. So that's a one program, yeah yeah.

Speaker 5:

And then. So some people will do like a little class in their garage. There's a community center, I think, at the centerville park. They have a community center there and they have a small little setup there. I know there's some classes because people I get asked that question more than any other question Huh, interesting. And so what ends up happening is like there's like a class for like it's basically like a mom and kid class where like there's a they kind of want a parent with a young kid so you can kind of work with them, you make things, they make things, but like a proper ceramic studio with like enough space to have like classes and it's open six, seven days a week and it's open for morning, afternoon and evening. There's nothing even like that.

Speaker 2:

Hi, sorry to interrupt. Aloni College has one. Aloni College has one. They have a ceramics course. I've taken it. It's still there. It's lovely. Aloni College has a ceramics course with a full studio.

Speaker 5:

Ceramics is a really hot, uh like hobby or, like you know, uh extra activity, I think, especially during COVID.

Speaker 4:

like COVID, everyone's like I'm going to make either a sourdough bread or I'm going to start making ceramics.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah, I mean it's so funny that you say that, because it's really frustrating to the people who do ceramics, because all the pottery wheels sold out, all the kilns sold out, all the materials, cause everybody was trying to set up a home thing, and you know the people who are running classes or trying to buy stuff, like I had to wait, uh, like 16 months cause it's the, it's the convergence of, like you know, supply chain issues plus labor issues and being able to work, and then people wanting stuff and ordering it online. That I was like man, it's been a long time. Where's my partner's backorder to his background? Like, but this is made in America, yeah.

Speaker 4:

That's right, yeah, like what's the.

Speaker 5:

this is a freight from China, Like I, know, but they're backordered because they got a thousand orders all at once, and so there was quite a few things I waited for because of COVID. But I love that people are getting into ceramics yeah. You know I was approached by someone who again got my name from somebody at the place there's one big ceramic store Shout out to Clay Planet and Santa Clara the best ceramic store, I think, in the country. It's just the most knowledgeable staff. The owner there is the most friendly go-to-your-way guy. One of my former students works there and he fell in love with ceramics and you know it gave him confidence. I could give his whole story. It's the same. I can rinse and repeat the story. A kid with no confidence or feel like it is and belong finds that he feels comfortable in ceramics. People respect him for what he learned in that class. He started building friend groups. He gets a girlfriend, he gets confident. All those things happen and it was, you know, because the shy kid who worked hard after school found a place that he felt like he fit in. Wow. But, Clay Planet is a store in Santa Clara off of Russell Avenue, off Monogu Expressway. It is an incredible place where they have workshops and stuff but they sell to all over. I think it's almost basically Northern California. They have a few locations they've kind of bought and resell out of. But they have helped me a lot in my class. They've donated supplies and materials. They come out and help prepare stuff. But anyone who is interested in learning more about ceramics it's like you know, 15 minutes from almost anywhere in Fremont, without traffic that's cool. Yeah, Clay Planet is a great place and they ship and they do it on online store too. But yeah, the person who approached me met me asked they wanted to have a sink made for their house, and so they wanted this really big sink made and nobody was willing to make it for them Like a full sink.

Speaker 3:

Like a bathroom sink, but it's like a three foot tall vase. That's a sink. Wow, it's a.

Speaker 5:

she saw it in Spain at a winery. There was this sink in the bathroom and she's like I want the sink like that. She's remodeling her house and tried to find someone to make it and everyone's quoting your crazy prices. And I said you know they? They at Clay Planet said there's a guy who will do it because he'll do anything and he can. He's really good at making big pots, but he'll do anything for money for pots, because he's going to donate it to his school. So she called me and asked if I would do it and I said sure, you make a donation to the school and I'll make your pot for you. So but anyways, I helped her make an entire 200 piece dinnerware set for her daughter's wedding over the summer. After that that blows my mind 200 piece dinnerware set. Yeah Well she made it, she wanted to learn how to make it for her daughter's wedding. So her daughter was getting married about married two months ago, and so we worked for about six months. I showed her how to mass produce things, I taught her private lessons, helped her glaze the work, and then, um, so she donated again. So she's donated almost $10,000 to this school, oh wow. So, um, and it's you know um, the amount of, if I did the, the dollar per hour that I make on stuff like that, um, I'm not making as much of it. I'm not making as much as I'm making hourly from the school.

Speaker 2:

Right, wow, I.

Speaker 5:

I enjoyed it. I got to know her and her family, and the reason I bring the story up is she uh mentioned to me and we're talking about it now as opening a pottery studio in Fremont.

Speaker 2:

Oh, wow.

Speaker 3:

That'd be cool, Um yeah.

Speaker 5:

She has the financial means to do it and I have the technical know-how, uh, and I also have the desire. I I miss teaching adults. I love teaching kids. Um, before the pandemic, I was teaching in Los Gatos, just because I wanted to be around adults, so I was driving, you know, 35, 40 miles um there once a week and teaching a three hour class, um, and I, just after COVID, just I was basically paying for gas um teaching that class. I just I love teaching kids. There's a different energy. But adults, when they want to learn it, someone like you. You see, here's something it seems like it could be fulfilling. It's different than what I normally do. Yeah, I would have to sacrifice my time, I'd have to sacrifice my money for it, but I'm willing to do that, that's right and when someone has made sacrifices to learn um. It's different than a high school kid who's told you have to be here. There's a rebellious nature of high school kids. Um the if you tell them to be someone they don't want to you know, tell them they don't want to. That's right, and I think we all went through that, yeah, uh, and it's like the right of passage and that's the job of a teacher is to kind of get them out of that mindset by manipulating or kind of like tricking them.

Speaker 4:

You do the clay right.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah I just kind of try to, like you know, just know a little bit better what to do Right yeah. Know what buttons to push. So, um, you know, I I would really love to to do it. We've been talking about it for three or four months. Um, they're really serious about it. I got a text from them two days ago about it. So we're going to meet and the tentative plan is to find a location and open up a pottery studio in Fremont for adults and for kids. Um, hopefully this summer uh the summer would work best for me, so if it's not this summer, it'd be the following summer. Okay, cause I have to um, spend a lot of time. I would you know, build all the tables and set up all the equipment. I do all the labor part myself, so I need like a being a high school teacher. The best part is the summer.

Speaker 3:

So I get, I get nine weeks of uh.

Speaker 5:

I would go in for nine weeks and I probably wouldn't make stuff in my classroom.

Speaker 4:

I bet you could recruit some former students to probably come out and invest a little extra time into that as well.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah, so that's I mean the plan cause it. You know, I love teaching kids. I love teaching high school. That's not going to stop for me. I love the environment. Um, it's what I wanted to do since I was in high school teach high school ceramics and that that's not going to change. But um, I, I, if I the thousands and thousands of times I've been asked the question do you teach adult?

Speaker 2:

classes.

Speaker 3:

Can I?

Speaker 5:

take your class. Can you teach me on the weekend?

Speaker 3:

Um, it's too much and I tried.

Speaker 5:

I tried to do it through a nonprofit. I started a nonprofit called Genesis ceramics, oh Uh, and I ran it for about two years. I taught adult classes. It's just there's a lot of hoops to jump through teaching, like being a nonprofit, renting a school site. And so I wasn't taking a paycheck, I was donating a hundred percent of it to the school. I had about 20, 25 students cause like you know I was doing it after school and it was like teachers and janitors and people's parents and people from the community all different people and they were really sad that I stopped. But, um, the school districts from you know the fees that I was being charged and what was being charged to rent the classroom. The school was taking about half of the money I was making. I was donating. I was putting the other half in a school account, so they were taking half and going to the district and that disappeared into like nothing. And then the other half was going to my class and so I wasn't being paid but I was giving half my money to a school district that has millions of dollars and those thousands and thousands would have done nothing for them but they would have doubled the impacts I could have made in my class.

Speaker 4:

And so.

Speaker 5:

I stopped doing it just because it was hard to do something for free and pay for the pleasure. Yeah, that was hard so you know, I would love to have a for-profit private studio that I could help run, because it would actually be able to donate to the school in a lot of different ways and the school could help with that, with kids and community service. So I think it could be really symbiotic and it wouldn't be something that I would feel like I was kind of being taken advantage of yeah Well, I think it's something that is.

Speaker 4:

I mean it's already left its mark. I mean you even mentioned that it was at. The teacher at Irvington was a student of yours, or was it a mission?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, a mission. A mission was a student of yours.

Speaker 4:

And it seems to me like the impact that you've had has already been significant within the 11 years that you've been here. Yeah, I think that it's something that you know. To be able to transfer that, or at least offer it to the adult community would be really fantastic, because I do think that the more that we are able to be together, be near each other, to be able to impact each other's lives, to be able to, you know, create things together, I think all of those things just really go to building a really strong and a healthy community.

Speaker 5:

And I think that's the thing that ceramics has to offer. That and I mean this and probably the most. It's the most literal sense from what I understand about art communities and going to art school and being around a few. I'm not like an expert, but I have some experience. The ceramics community is and I'm biased, but the best community. Ceramics has to be done in a group. The kilns have to be fired, everything is very. You use the same equipment, you have large amounts of clay you all share. The glazes are shared. It's inefficient. When you paint, you have a palette, you have your paint, your easel and you do your thing. It's very like individualistic. Pottery is so communal. Traditionally, an entire town does pottery together. Everyone in the town does some part of the pottery. I was just visiting in China, for I took a vacation, first one during a school year in 11 years, wow. I went to China for a month, japan for a week and then China for three weeks. I went to all the different pottery places and different cities that are just dedicated to pottery. There's a city in China that for a thousand years, the almost exclusive business for the entire town is pottery. It's always community-based. So what I think my class has value in the school is. One thing is I have a community. There's kids who are there every day after school. They hang out. They're not friends from any other thing besides ceramics and it's a place where kids just hang out and aren't on their phones and talk For adults. It is the opposite of sitting in front of a computer, but also you sit around a bunch of pottery wheels. Everyone else is there. You're laughing, you're struggling with each other, you're talking about your day. When I taught in Los Gatos, people would just come. They're like I don't feel like making anything. I just got to get away from my kids for a little bit, or I just got to be, and the people become your friends. And it's a community and I think that's something that the Bay Area, but I think in general, as the world has gone more and more online, in-person community, where you're doing things with your hands, that it's so physical. It's so physical in a world that is becoming less and less physical. I think it's super important. And I think the only other thing I want to make sure I don't forget to say is I always have parents that, like back to school, and I maybe say something like you know, why is this class important? Why you know my kid wants to take this class, but what's this going to do for them? And like what's the tangible? What am I going to get from this? And the thing that ceramics taught me the most, without question, is how to fail, like how to, how to, how to fail and learn from it, how to fail and deal with the feelings of failure, how to fail and be encouraged by it, how to fail and be motivated. But how to fail is something that it's not taught in school. It's actually discouraged in school. I actually just got back from a meeting right after school. I had a little meeting and then I went back to class and I came here. We're talking about Ds and Fs and progress reports and you know grade announcements and all these things, and we're trying all these things to help kids not fail. And there's a little disservice in that, because we all kind of hear you know you learn more from your failures and successes. Yeah, in ceramics, like you'll be making something and I was helping a kid after school today and they're working on it for 30 minutes and they put a hole in it and they worked on it for an hour the day before and so they've got an hour and a half in and it's real and they need to start all over again and you have to face that and it's really important to learn how to say okay, this thing I made, it's gone. I broke it. It's me, I did it. Own that. But then also, like I did learn from the process of making it, I could do it again. I could make it better. This is just part of a process. The product itself isn't as important as the process. I'll make a hundred more things.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, right.

Speaker 5:

This one doesn't matter. I can do it again. I can. I can move past this and I'm not. I'm not. I'm not marked or labeled by or identified with this failure. This is just one step. That's great, and little kids get this. Little kids are okay falling down or messing up and doing again. The older they get, the more afraid of failing in public, the more afraid of looking foolish in front of their peers.

Speaker 4:

They have higher expectations for themselves.

Speaker 5:

They think everything's got, everything's like if I don't, I don't get into college, if I don't if. I don't and learning how to be comfortable and sit in and learn from failure. It loosens you up, it gives you freedom, you take chances. Things don't happen without risks. Whenever I hear on a podcast you listen to like some person, they talk about how they fail and how things have to go wrong for you to learn from them. Right, and it's understood like failure is a very vital part of the process of learning, or growing or engineering. Yeah, but I mean from my little corner. Kids are so afraid to fail, so I have written on my wall and I painted it on the wall and giant font FAIL is like an acronym. First attempt in learning. That's what failure is, it's just the first attempt in the process of learning this skill and you're going to fail here and you're, and I I've made every mistake that the kids making class.

Speaker 4:

Wow, I've made all those mistakes and I learned from them, and I don't make them as often and you're able to take those lessons that you learn in the classroom and take them into real life. I mean because we I mean as you grow up and these kids are going to be leaving their homes and going out on their own I mean you have to learn those lessons, I mean, otherwise it gets super discouraging when you have expectations for yourself and you just realize the first time you fail is when you're outside the community or outside the family that was always there for you.

Speaker 5:

The scaffolding, right, right, and that's why I tell kids like the best time to fail, the best time to blow it is when you live with parents who love you, when you have a school that's like has counselors and administrators and teachers are trying to support you and guide you and lead you. That's when you want to mess up because, like, you have a team right when, right when you graduate and you go to college, all that team it evaporates. Because you're in school, your parents don't get your report cards, there's no nlfs, you don't know a lot of people with the school. Sure, there are counselors, but they're not like required to talk to you, not to talk to them. The whole support system falls. And so I think it's so important to let kids struggle to not do well in school, because it's like this is the safest place to learn how to recover. That's great, and I think that you know you can learn. You don't have to learn it with like you know I crashed my car. You don't have to learn it with, like high stakes.

Speaker 1:

You can learn it with.

Speaker 5:

I messed up the pot in class on Tuesday. Yeah, that's great Like that's the right stakes, but it's still the feeling of disappointment, of regret, of shame or embarrassment, Like those are things everyone's got to get a little bit comfortable with and learn how to move through it. That's great and I know kids learn that in my class because I see resilience being like like grown in people. Right, and then I see them trying to show other people, someone else could say don't worry, just do it again, and they just share it with each other and it's a mindset and I mess things up all the time and I just shrug it off and say learn from that experience, Don't do it again. One little short story. I know, you know the story. I'm wearing the boot today. You can see it. I was chopping wood this summer at my house and I didn't do a good job and I put an axe in my leg and I learned from that experience.

Speaker 4:

I cringe every time you say that yeah, I did.

Speaker 5:

I put an axe right into my ankle, like in the top front of my ankle, and went into the bone a little bit. I was very fortunate didn't do any serious damage. But you know, my mom's first response is you threw the axe way right. You could never chop wood again with an axe because you did this thing and I was like that's not how you learn. And so this weekend I chopped wood for an hour and a half, all fingers and toes.

Speaker 4:

No, no wounds. You wore steel boots.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, even still.

Speaker 4:

I was very careful.

Speaker 5:

But that's a hard lesson to learn. To like put an axe in your leg and have to get driven to the emergency room by a friend of yours, but you know every swing of the axe. After that and before I swung it every single time this weekend I made sure my feet were right, that's right.

Speaker 3:

I was swinging it straight.

Speaker 5:

And I learned a lesson about just being careful and not being overconfident with something that you think you've done for a long time. And like, sharp, heavy things are dangerous and I knew that, but I really know it now.

Speaker 4:

And.

Speaker 5:

I only learned it through failure, and that lesson will never I can't forget that lesson, because there's literally a scar to remind me of that. That's exactly right, and so you know when I do that. I told all my kids the first part of the year I was in a boot because it happened right before school started. So I, you know, I told the kids. I was like look, I make mistakes, I'm not a friend, I'm not going to not chop wood, I'm not going to learn. I'm going to learn from that experience, I'm going to get something from it. But that was a pretty like. If the goal was to chop the wood, not your body, I'd definitely fail, because the wood was fine, the leg wasn't.

Speaker 4:

So that's right. You failed on both accounts. You missed the wood and you didn't really complete the job with the leg.

Speaker 5:

So no, no, no, no no, so it just that's the kind of thing that you know. Ceramics taught me how to fail well, and it taught me that I'm not going to say I'm bad at chopping wood, this is not for me, I'm going to never do it again. That's not the mindset. The mindset is I actually watched a couple of videos on chopping wood and watched like these lumberjack guys. We were in a I shit like yours.

Speaker 4:

You're wearing today with the the plaid shirt, the plaid shirt and they're chopping wood, watching YouTube video.

Speaker 5:

I'm talking okay, what did I do? Okay, what is stance? Are there some?

Speaker 4:

kind of gear I should get. That's some shingar they should wear. And how long have you been chopping wood in your life? You know I've been.

Speaker 5:

I started chopping wood. My grandpa gave me a doll axe and he had me like chopping a tree sideways that had fallen over. Just to give us time, I was probably like six.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so you, it's something you've had experience with, but I was like I want to be manly.

Speaker 5:

Let me chop some wood.

Speaker 4:

Jake, I'm so glad that you've been able to share with us a little bit of what you do in our community and thank you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, it's great.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, Anybody that's listening who knows how to write grants wants to say Jake, a little bit of time Somebody who geeks out on that reach out to Jake.

Speaker 5:

write him some grants so that he can make you anything you want. That's right, you'll make you a 200 piece dinnerware set, yeah.

Speaker 4:

And anybody that's interested in contributing to the program that he's so wonderfully invested in. You know, find out. We'll post when we can, when he has shows and sales and stuff going on. But support that if you can. And I mean it's not a win-lose situation. I mean the pottery. I have some of your pottery and it's fantastic. I love it, and so it's something you can take home with you and you know that your purchase of that piece is an investment into a really important part of our community and to the kids that are in our community.

Speaker 5:

So and just the side thing is I make all the glazes and I understand food safety and glaze chemistry. I kind of nerd out on all ceramic stuff so I know some people are concerned about like, can I put in microwave dishwasher? If people are listening into buying pots, everything is microwave dishwasher and food safe. There you go. I wouldn't sell it where I live otherwise. There you go. Wow, that's awesome.

Speaker 4:

Very good. Well, jake, thank you so much and I look forward to seeing more of the work that you're doing. I want to share more of the work that you're doing and help support it through whatever I can on the podcast, but thanks for being on the podcast.

Speaker 3:

And yeah.

Speaker 4:

I hope, as you continue to serve our community in this way, I hope you're very successful at that.

Speaker 5:

Thanks, I appreciate it yeah.

Speaker 1:

This episode was hosted and produced by Ricky B Scheduling and pre-interviews by Sarah S. Rachel Prey is the print editor in charge of our newsletter. I'm Gary Williams. Andrew Kovett is the editor. Music provided by soundstripecom Be sure to subscribe wherever it is that you listen so you don't miss an episode. You can find everything we make the podcast, our newsletter and all of our social media links at thefremontpodcastcom. Join us next week on the Fremont podcast Music.

Speaker 5:

And so I walked, I just I finally walked in one day and I think Stevie was behind the counter making coffee. I'm like hey, I heard you guys want someone to make handmade cups. So like yeah, do you know somebody? I'm like I'm the ceremony teacher in the street. I make cups, I'll make you some cups. That's awesome. And he's like really, I'm like, yeah, I had three people bother like tell me about it, and so I feel like I'm supposed to come help you guys out. And it works fantastic and they're just really nice people. Yeah, absolutely you know really nice people, yeah, and they raise their kids well, which means a lot.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it does mean a lot. Yeah, and they have. They have okay sisters too.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I've heard mixed things, all right, I'm testing our audio right now it looks fine.

Speaker 1:

So I'm going to go ahead and we'll jump on into it, sure.

Speaker 4:

So this is a.

Speaker 3:

Muggins media. Muggins media podcast.

Promotions and Vendors at Flea Market
Teaching Ceramics in Schools
The Value of Ceramics in Education
Fundraising Through Pottery Sales in Education
Opportunities for Ceramics in the Community
Failure and Community in Ceramics
Handmade Cup Collaboration With Muggins Media