"This is an alien ogre," said Lindsay Stempeck, holding up the head of a ceramic creature that resembled the title character from the movie "Shrek."
The 17-year-old showed off other eerie creatures that she made out of clay then coated with black glaze during the Ashland Art Center's Enrichment Program Ceramics Course.
"I like scary things," Stempeck said, noting that while Halloween is around the corner, the holiday wasn't the inspiration for her alien ogre, werewolf or sinister fish hook that resembled a large claw.
Eight students in the ceramics course — which is designed for special-needs students from middle school-age into their early 20s — have been hard at work making pieces for an exhibit during Ashland's First Friday Art Walk on Nov. 1.
Some pieces will fit together over metal support rods to create totem poles, which will be shown on the ground floor of the three-level art center at 357 E. Main St. in downtown Ashland.
Individual ceramic pieces will be on sale through the month of November in the center's downstairs ceramics studio.
Students will be on hand to visit with art enthusiasts from 5 to 8 p.m. during the First Friday Art Walk.
"I'm very excited," said student Victoria Peckerman, age 19. "I'll have pieces downstairs to try and sell."
Peckerman said she is an artist and has always wanted to work with ceramics. She's learned how to make sculptural creations, as well as bowls and plates.
Her friend Alexandria Pinney, who graduated from Ashland High School and is now working at specialty food company Harry & David, is also taking the course.
Student Olivia Reid, age 13, had carved the initials of her friends in the class on one of her sculptures, as well as the name of legendary Hawaiian goddess Pele.
"She's the fire god and the volcano god of Hawaiian culture. I happen to be part Hawaiian," Reid said.
A dish Reid made featured Christian, Jewish and Egyptian themes.
In a conceptual work, Reid had carved out, "I want (blank) not war."
She pointed out how a piece of crumpled material was standing in for the missing word "Peace."
Fiona Morris, age 15, had fashioned delicate clay letters about one of her favorite subjects, fairies, while 13-year-old Walker Hill was busy painting brown glaze on his tree branch-shaped sculpture.
"I used a knife," Walker Hill said, describing how he had created a textured surface to mimic bark.
His mother, Sonia Hill, said her son has always been creative and expressive, making the ceramics class a perfect outlet for him. He enjoys the social aspect of the class, collaborating with other students on projects and making his own pieces.
"He's always wanted a dog, so we have a lot of dogs," Sonia Hill said, noting that her son's sculptures include a dachshund and chocolate labrador.
Pointing out some of her best friends in the class, Stempeck said she enjoys the ceramics course.
"I really, really love the ceramics class. I meet new people and stuff. I need something inspiring," she said, adding that her other artistic endeavors include drawing monsters, cats, mice, faces and koalas.
Long-time ceramics enthusiast Eliza Schaaf, age 23, and 21-year-old Hannah Sibert — a fan of bowling, track, basketball, Zumba fitness dancing and weight lifting — are also making pieces in the class for the coming First Friday exhibit.
Nathan T. Clinton, the head of the art center's enrichment program and a teacher of the ceramics course, said the class has eight students and room for four more.
Students meet every Tuesday after school.
The class is free to students thanks to donations from two individuals, according to art center staff.
The art center is hoping more people will make donations so classes can expand to cover print-making and painting, Clinton said.
Clinton teaches the ceramics course with the art center's clay studio manager, Alissa Clark.
"This is about students enjoying themselves. It's creative and fun and social," Clinton said.
For information on joining the class or making a donation to fund more enrichment classes for special needs students, call the nonprofit Ashland Art Center at 541-482-2772.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.