Waibel shares her youth through MSAA Gold Key ceramics slab vase

Elle Chen, RubicOnline

A slab of clay contains a million memories. For 9th-grader Natalie Waibel, her most recent Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards Gold Key ceramics slab vase reminds her of two: spring and childhood. On the front of the vase, her childhood bicycle- filled with books and flowers- pedals across a sea of khaki glaze. Flipping sides, a youthful baby bunny hides behind the rows of fruits and vegetables that Waibel and her brother used to pick and eat as children.

While Waibel’s vase is one of her first pieces, the artistry that she exhibits through her work is not new. She said, “I’ve always had a passion for ceramics, and I like to think that I have a good eye which enables me to be very precise while working on my pieces.”

Specifically, Waibel’s slab vase began as an assignment in Fine Arts Department Chair Daryn Lowman’s ceramics course. Waibel said, “The idea of the assignment was to create some sort of connection between the 3D and the 2D parts of the piece, so almost like they fit together in some way.”

As Waibel started to transition her 2D sketches onto clay, she likewise grew more invested in her piece. Aiming for perfection, there were times when Waibel’s ambitions made her feel anxious and fall behind as well. She said, “It was a bit sloppier of a process than I anticipated, and I got frustrated that the slabs weren’t sticking together perfectly. It took me multiple classes to complete, and I remember being behind everyone since they had started creating ceramics with the pottery wheels and I was still painting.”

With time came results. In the end, the synergy that Waibel’s piece created was not only apparent to herself but to others, like Lowman, who encouraged her to submit her artwork for competition.

But, I submitted my piece anyway and looking back, I’m glad I did.

— 9th grader Natalie Waibel

However, being a 9th-grader in a class full of upperclassmen initially made Waibel hesitant to submit her work. She said, “When Mr. Lowman suggested that I submit the slab vase to the MSAA program, I was unsure if it was worth it. I looked up to a lot of the upperclassmen, and they always amazed me with their pieces, so I had a large amount of doubt in my own work. But, I submitted my piece anyway and looking back, I’m glad I did.”

Even after winning a Gold Key award for her vase, Waibel’s work ethic has opened doors for self-critique and improvement. “When the piece [her slab vase] was fired, a lot of the colors and designs faded into the clay, so the piece is more dull than it once was,” she said.

From the design to the colors, it’s easy to identify why Waibel improved so quickly.

Looking into the future with her MSAA Gold Key win, Waibel hopes to continue pursuing ceramics but is also open to trying new things. “I might do it again as another elective in the future years of high school, but I’m also interested in exploring other forms of art too, ” Waibel said.

This year’s MSAA awards ceremony will be held this Saturday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m.. Check out the full list of SPA winners here.