Rebecca Velasco had not imagined her ceramic work would make it into a prominent exhibition of works from around the country even once, let alone twice. But the New Rochelle High School senior recently had the honor of sending her work to be presented in the Annual National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition for the second year in a row.
What's more, she won awards both times.
Her 17-pound work Tribe Leader: Native American Bust was exhibited in the show last week in Minneapolis. The exhibition is hosted by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts and is held in conjunction with the council's annual conference, the preeminent ceramics event in the country.
Former teacher Grace Fraioli encouraged Velasco to send in a piece last year.
"Ms. Fraioli saw something in it and she told me to at least try," Velasco said.
This year, only 153 pieces were chosen for the exhibition out of 1,141 pieces submitted. The judges awarded Velasco the Marilu Tejero Award for Latin American Cultural Content. The piece also won the Ci Product award.
The piece she submitted last year also won The Marilu Tejero Award.
Her current teacher, Ellen Salov, says Velasco has "a real gift" for ceramic work. It's more than that, too. When Velasco found working on the pottery wheel to be a bit difficult, she put in the time to get it right.
"When she saw that she would have to work at it a little harder, she started coming during her free periods," Salov said. "She's gotten really good at it in a short period of time."
Velasco finds working with the clay calming.
"It's very relaxing," she said. "I find peace in throwing on the wheel."
She plans to study forensic science when she attends the University of Tampa next year. But she plans to keep ceramics as a hobby.
"I like that there are no set rules or boundaries," she said. "There's always something different to learn. You can make something unique and different from any other piece you've seen."
Top photo: Rebecca Velasco in class at New Rochelle High School with some of her current works.
Bottom Photo: Velasco's award-winning piece 'Tribe Leader: Native American Bust.'