By intertwining creativity and knowledge, ceramics teacher Lacye Nichols brings the classroom to life.
Pablo Picasso once stated, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Art plays a vital role in sparking imagination and creativity amongst children. However, as many get older, once vivid minds begin to lack in artistry. The TJ arts program is able to prevent this gift from fading by providing ceramics classes as well as drawing and painting, so that students can deepen their understanding of the meaning and importance of art. Ceramics teacher Lacye Nichols brings this concept to life through her incorporation of pride in her work as well as the way she teaches.
Having grown up in a rural town in Alabama along the Tennessee River, Nichols gained many skills regarding nature including the ability to sustain herself through hunting and fishing, which is now apparent in her work through adding details such as birds or plants. Nichols also spent a majority of her time on the water with activities such as water skiing and jet skiing. Since she was brought up in a household that encouraged art, she was given a potter’s wheel at the age of eight, which then sparked her mind to bring creativity to her life. Nichols is known for her unconventional hair, since every six weeks, she sports a different color. This tradition has been in place since she was in sixth grade leading to her now being unsure of her natural hair color. This goes to show how she incorporates different aspects of creativity to target uniqueness. When she was a freshman in high school, she began taking ceramics as a class, and her love for it was instantaneously permanent.
As college approached, Nichols knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life; however, teaching was not initially a part of that plan. She decided to go to University of Alabama, where she majored in ceramics. Soon after, she joined a karaoke band which was (and still is) famous throughout Alabama, where they still do reunion tours, donating all proceeds to charity. She has been living in Denver off and on for roughly fifteen years; she moved back and forth between Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.. During this time she also attended Metropolitan State University in Denver, where she obtained the “Clay Baby.” The Clay Baby is from the kiln yard at Metro, and his job was to watch over the kilns to make sure nothing would happen. Unfortunately, other students would steal him and torture him. This inspired Nichols to save him, which thankfully led to him now watching over TJ’s prospering artists. All level one students are told if they misbehave or act disrespectfully, the Clay Baby will make their piece explode while it is being fired.
A month before Nichols was set to graduate from college, a teacher told her that she wasn’t an artist, nor would she ever be, and suggested that she should drop out. She proceeded to explain that she would be an awful teacher as well. From that moment on, Nichols promised herself she would never let another student feel ridiculed for being human due to the devastating emotional toll that she experienced. Her goal as a teacher is to increase her student’s self-esteem pertaining to both themselves and their artwork. “I think it’s pretty groovy when a student has a breakthrough,” said Nichols. “When just a week ago their piece was falling apart and they couldn’t center on the wheel and then one day, boom! Their piece isn’t in a thousand pieces, bowl thrown on the wheel, eight inches tall, seven inches wide. It’s cool to see the excitement in a student’s face when they realize that yeah, they can do it, it’s not this hard.”
Because of how students advance throughout ceramics, both in knowledge and creativity, the class becomes “more interesting and enjoyable” which leads students to “wanting to self teach and experiment with more things” as level four student Karen Alvarez mentioned. Level four student Stephanie Chavez stated, “She’s a great teacher. She’s fun and enthusiastic about what she’s teaching and gets students involved.” This is the kind of thing that drew her to TJ. Teachers support each other and their students, while students support their teachers, which is an admirable quality in her eyes.
Nichols spends a majority of her time gardening (many of the plants come from her late grandfather’s home in Alabama), working on her new house, riding her vespa, and spending time with her great dane who has a great right hook. She also enjoys selling her own ceramic pieces on the side. As time progresses, her future plans include making art, teaching, getting married, adopting another great dane, and one day, hopefully, finishing her house.
Nichols embodies creativity and artistic values which have been prominent all throughout her life and have been gradually passed down to students throughout the years. In time, it’s certain she and her students will excel and do magnificent things.