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

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Ten Sleep student receives national recognition

Senior Lee Whitlock to have artwork exhibited in national ceramics exhibition


February 24, 2018

Tracie Mitchell

Ten Sleep School student Lee Whitlock begins a ceramic piece during pottery class at the Ten Sleep School recently.

TEN SLEEP – Ten Sleep High School senior Lee Whitlock has been chosen to have his ceramic art work, a teapot, exhibited March 14-16 in the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

"It's a humbling thing. I was hoping that I would get something in, but wasn't expecting it; I wouldn't have been disappointed if I didn't," Whitlock said. "It was one of my assignments; to make a pour pitcher or a teapot. It was my first one and it just ended up working out. Everything just came together," he added.

According to the national K-12 Ceramic Exhibition website, "The National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition is an annual juried ceramic competition for kindergarten through grade 12 students in the United States. Designed to showcase the best K-12 ceramic work made in the country, the exhibition takes place in a different city each year in conjunction with the annual conference of The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). The NCECA conference is the preeminent ceramic event in the US annually, gathering professionals from universities, colleges, museums, art galleries and the ceramic arts world to a host city to view exhibitions, demonstrations, talks and other ceramic events. For that week, the host city is the world capital of ceramics. The best work in our exhibition is consistently judged to be better than undergraduate and much of the graduate work produced nationwide. What has been so surprising, and what draws such large crowds every year, is the simple showcase reality: that young people who have learned the basics of ceramics can express themselves as well, if not better, than people much older and more mature."

Ten Sleep School art teacher Dustin Stephenson stated that this is the first year that he has ever submitted art work for consideration. He said he submitted four pieces and Whitlock's teapot was chosen. Whitlock's teapot was chosen by Professor Peter Pinnell, the juror for this year's exhibition.

"The decisions of the juror were based upon and examination of 1,203 entries for this year's exhibition. The work Lee completed, 'Emerald,' was

selected and now will be included among the best from our country. The catalog, poster and website will include this work of all students selected for the exhibition," an email sent to Stephenson from the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition Foundation stated.

Whitlock was first introduced to pottery by Stephenson during his sophomore year and he struggled with it for a time until he finally got the hang of it. After getting the hang of it Whitlock said that it became one of his favorite things to do. He stated that once he got over the hump, throwing and creating became a stress reliever helping him relax after a stressful test or day.

Stephenson stated, "Lee has worked very hard and diligent at pottery. One thing about Lee, he has become very technical and he gets a plan on how he wants things done, finished really, pretty much before he even starts. A lot of students don't do that, most students don't do that. It's huge, he can visualize where he is going with it, he knows what he is going to make before he sits down."

That hard work and dedication paid off quickly when just a year after learning pottery, Whitlock earned nine blue ribbons, a 3-D artistic award and three first lady awards at the Wyoming State Art Symposium held in Casper every year.

Stephenson explained that the pieces earning the first lady awards are on display in the governor's mansion in Cheyenne. "The first lady comes to the symposium and picks 25-50 pieces that she gives a ribbon to and takes them to the mansion, takes all the art out and puts all the students work up to decorate. This is the last year that she is doing it because Governor [Matt] Mead is leaving office," Stephenson said.

Whitlock's teapot could earn him a scholarship from the exhibition if he decides to submit his work for scholarship. At this point he is uncertain exactly which direction he wants to go after high school and the exhibition leaves him with a short time to decide if he wants to pursue an art career. Stephenson stated that Whitlock needs to make the tough decision soon or pass up the opportunity for a chance to receive a full scholarship to an art school. "A young lady last year that had a piece in there won an $80,000 scholarship to the Kansa City Institute of art," Stephenson stated. He added, "It's a tough decision when you are very smart."

Stephenson will be attending the exhibition and said that if Whitlock was serious about going to college for ceramics he would like to bring him along. "It's a whole week of nothing but ceramics workshops and lectures on the ceramic arts in the world. Some of the big time ceramic artists are there doing workshops. You go into a room and they are up on a stage creating and they will have two big screen TVs in there with 1,500 people watching and taking notes. It's pretty neat."


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