October 2023

Molding Your Future with Clay  

Cece Tarahteeff found her “escape, – somewhere I can be without judgment” in the bricks of clay, spinning wheels, and buckets of glaze she uses to make her greatest passion: ceramics. “Pottery puts me in a meditative state of mind, in another headspace. I could be having a bad day, but I go into the studio and leave feeling amazing.”  

Cece, is a 22-year-old born and raised Santa Cruzian, who discovered her love of pottery when she was 14, while attending Santa Cruz High under the guidance of her teacher, Iver Hennig. His influence was particularly influential for Cece, as “he allows you to have the freedom to explore and create, and gives you the reins… I was really allowed to explore.”

Growing up, art was always central to Cece’s family culture. Her older twin brothers were both gifted artists and musicians, which, according to Cece, actually deterred her from initially experimenting with different artistic mediums. She says she “was intimidated to go down the traditional artistic path just because I felt [my brothers] were so much better than me. But ceramics was my own path of being an artist.”

Cece found her first attempts at pottery extremely daunting. She says, because of her inner critic, “I never like how my art looks. So, starting out and being so unsure of myself was really hard.” But, with a little time, she “fell in love with it and being around clay and the community it fosters.”

After graduating from High School, Cece’s fascination with ceramics continued. She took two pottery classes while attending Cabrillo College, which gave her a place to focus on “refining my skills and learning how to throw bigger, with more confidence, and working on shape.”

After leaving Cabrillo, Cece “was in limbo,” trying to figure out what was next. “I had always suppressed the desire to pursue [ceramics] as a career just because I’ve always been told ‘it’s too hard a field to get into. Nobody’s gonna pay for that. You’re not gonna make a living.’ But I decided one day the only way it’s going to happen is if I make it happen” and so she threw herself into forging a career in ceramics.

There are many costs associated with making pottery. Not only do you have to pay for clay but also dish out a monthly fee to have access to a ceramics studio and its tools, wheels, glazes, and other equipment. Pottery is time intensive too, with Cece explaining that “each individual piece can take a month to several months to produce and go through the whole process.” 

However, despite these obstacles, Cece’s love of pottery has continued to push her to advance her craftsmanship. Her favorite part of ceramics is “exploring with new clays, new glazes, new combinations. There are just so many variables that everything you make is going to be some sort of mystery. It often doesn’t come out how you envision it.” Moreover, ceramic casualties are common, with many pieces never making it out of the kiln as “you can lose up to a good half of what you make.” However, Cece is grateful for these challenges as it is “through this, I’ve learned a lot about loss and letting go.”  

Nowadays, Cece sells her pieces at local markets and on her online Etsy shop. Every piece she creates is “a labor of love because everything I’ve made is a part of me and who I am. I love sharing that with people because whenever they use anything that I’ve made, it’s like I’m there.”  She hopes she can forge a career that lets her “be in the pottery studio as much as I can, selling online and at local markets.” One day, she hopes to open her own studio, as she would love to teach and pass on her passion for pottery to others.

Cece advises any aspiring potters to “find a local community studio or take a class at your community college. Community colleges are really underrated because they provide you with outlets of discovery. It’s the cheapest route and you will have somebody in the community to help support you”. She adds that “everybody starts off really bad… just don’t let your initial quality or level stop you.” 

Having developed her own skills through encouragement from her “teachers [that] have always pushed me to do things that I am apprehensive to do because I fear failure,” Cece has also pushed herself due to her love of “trying new things, which I think is really key.”

Cece believes “there’s something beautiful about ceramics because there’s not one right way to do it. There are rules, but people are coming out every day breaking them. You just have to know the rules to bend them” and create something new. 

Writer Elise A. Cline is a political science major and journalism and disability minor at U.C. Berkeley.

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