Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Passing on a passion for art

Ten Sleep art teacher shares love of art with students; will appear at Mammoth Quick Draw tonight TEN SLEEP – Ten Sleep School art teacher Dustin Stephenson has been passing on his passion for art to students for 28 years, so far. First for 16 years in Nebraska and now an additional 12 years in Ten Sleep, drawing out amazing artistic talent from every one of his K-12 students.


November 10, 2017


Dustin Stephenson

TEN SLEEP – Ten Sleep School art teacher Dustin Stephenson has been passing on his passion for art to students for 28 years, so far. First for 16 years in Nebraska and now an additional 12 years in Ten Sleep, drawing out amazing artistic talent from every one of his K-12 students.

"I could lose everything and I would still have my art work. Trying to put that passion into the kids and getting them exciting about something when they are little makes a huge difference. Coming from a bigger school a lot of teachers don't see the kids clear through school until they get to high school. Boom, OK they are in high school and the teachers don't know really know the background of what the students have had for their art. Not too many teachers can say, 'I've had this kid since he was a kindergartener,' and the students know, by the time they are in fourth grade, they know my expectations. By the time they are in high school here, I have already had them for eight years, other teachers can't say that," Stephenson said. "If you can connect with a student, teaching in a big school you are not going to connect with all 30 students in the class. You might connect with one or two that is going to take it a step farther. Here I know their families. We [Ten Sleep School] have so much to offer one-on-one with the kids that you don't get in a big school," he added.

Unlike many art teachers Stephenson doesn't load his students down with learning about art history and famous artists instead he focuses on creating. "Kids come to my class to create. I want them to have product to take home, to show, to give away, to be proud of and learn something that they can take with them, that's my goal. I think that's a huge part of why my kids are successful is because I don't dwell on some of that kind of stuff," Stephenson said.

Originality is an important aspect that Stephenson instills in his students. "I'm kind of going back to old school; I've gotten rid of internet. We are doing it from live drawing, we are going up on the mountain and

doing live painting and looking and trying to be original with it rather than letting them get onto Pinterest and find their idea that somebody else created. It's tough to teach originality, that's why I think ceramics is so popular here because it's easy to be original with it. You can do the same pot a hundred times and there are a hundred different ways you can glaze the thing," Stephenson said. "The kids still do it with their sketch books and stuff but I give them assignments where they have to get original," he added.

Stephenson began his artistic journey at a young age trying to draw Snoopy at the age of 4 but he didn't realize his calling until he met Jack Cabre. Cabre encouraged him to become an art teacher, made sure that Stephenson took his educational classes and let Stephenson do his observation work under him, Stephenson said.

He also credits his father who always pushed him and got Stephenson into art classes as a kid and his aunt who was an art and music major.

After high school Stephenson went to Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington for two years and then to Chadron State College, in Nebraska for three years earning his art education k-12 degree.

At Chadron, Stephenson met the master potter for the Zen Temple in Hawaii who became his biggest influence in ceramics. He stated that he learned a lot from the master potter and that the master potter was able to take him to a different place when they were together. He also learned from the master potter that to be a master of ceramics Stephenson would have to do it 10,000 times. "I started numbering my pots and kept notebooks so I can know how many I have done, all logged since 1996," Stephenson said. "Last month I threw my 13,000th vase. I just fired it and I had to stack two kilns on top of each other to get it done. It's 61 inches tall and I'm getting ready to spray it tonight [Wednesday] when I get home so it can go in my big gas kiln," he added.

Along with teaching, Stephenson has a gallery and studio in the back of his house, art work in four galleries across the state, an internet business, shows to attend and has recently started doing the Pint and Pottery at the Ten Sleep Brewery once a month. During the Pint and Pottery he makes pieces at his shop and brings them to the brewery where he teaches people how to glaze them. After that he takes the pieces back to his shop and finishes them bringing the finished pieces back to the brewery for people to pick up, he said. He also stated that he has sold pieces in every state, via the internet and pieces around the world, even in China.

He is also attending a big national conference in March for ceramic educators where one of his students will be demonstrating. "I am going to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a whole week of hanging out with potters, it's kind of cool. One of my students is actually making it big time right now. He has glaze companies sponsoring him and he's going to demonstrate there at that big event this year, it's pretty neat," Stephenson said.

Stephenson will be one of the 32 artists featured at the Mammoth Quick Draw dinner and auction at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center in Worland this evening. "Last time I did it I threw and people got to pick whatever piece they wanted and I brought it back and finished it. So it actually wasn't a finished piece when they auctioned it off. I took my wheel and actually made vases there, they could tell me how they wanted me to finish. I kind of customized what they wanted on it and it worked pretty good," Stephenson said. "This year, I have a vase that I raku glazed already and I have a pine cone branch sculpted on it. I have part of it glazed and fired then I just have to paint the pine cone branch so that it looks like a real pine cone on there. It's actually three dimensional sticking out of the vase and it's about 14 inches high. I was going to throw but when I read the paper about it, they wanted it to be a finished piece to auction," he added.

The Mammoth Quick Draw is an event at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center where attendees can view the artwork of 32 different artists while enjoying dinner and drinks. Attendees will also be able to watch the artists in action as the artists create or finish items in an hour to be sold at auction towards the end of the evening. The doors open at 5:15 and the event starts at 5:30.


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