Learn more about the outstanding staff at Stirling Hall!

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Karen Avery, Art Director

Karen Avery has had her hands in clay for over 30 years now. The spinning wheel was irresistible as that is where magic begins, the right and left hand both have tasks to learn. It's so much FUN! And, Karen was drawn to the flames of the gas glaze firings and could not wait begin to learn that alchemy of clay, oxygen, and fire. Fire will change your life, and indeed it has! There's a debate whether ceramics is Art or Craft, and certainly it is both! Having managerial experience, Karen had lots of opportunity for on-the-job training as she absorbed knowledge by touch, reading books to find the paragraph of a missing piece of information, as well as listening and watching great potters for their practiced techniques and subtle nuances. Karen has been teaching youth and adults for over 25 years. As Art Director, Karen works with our Instructors to offer a variety of classes that offer beginning students success and advanced students challenges. Our Monitor Team work weekly shifts so Stirling Hall can offer more Open Studio Hours and they help maintain glazes and recycling clay. And of course, Karen is still firing the 56 cubic feet Geil Gas Reduction Cone 10Glaze firings! Karen's degree is from a liberal arts college, Thomas Jefferson College, B.Ph.


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Debra Lerman, Art Supervisor

Debra Lerman has been with LF Parks and Rec's Stirling Hall Art Center teaching art enrichment activities to children and adults since 2001. She currently serves as Stirling Hall's art supervisor and instructor . With her degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Art, Debra has created a variety of programming that encourages everyone to develop their skills in arts and crafts , drawing, painting, and ceramics in a safe and fun environment. Debra's degree is from the University of Iowa and student teaching through Drake University Des Moines, Iowa.


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David Hartshorne, Artist

David Hartshorne teaches Beginning Wheel Throwing and is an active member and coordinator of the Soda Firing Team at Stirling Hall. He has also taught wheel throwing at Lill Street Art Center in Chicago. The soda kiln exposes the movement between fire and form, bringing depth and variety through the interplay of the clay, slips, and glazes well suited for this technique. In addition, with an MFA in Creative Writing, David serves as an editor for both fiction and non-fiction projects ,and hopes to inspire adults to continue pursuing a variety of skills in the Creative Arts.


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Sharon Hartshorne, Artist

Sharon Hartshorne, an artist with long-time ceramic connections at Stirling Hall, teaches Adult Wheel Throwing and is a Soda Firing Team Member and coordinator. She taught for years at Lill Street Art Center in Chicago and is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign with a BFA in painting and printmaking. Her classes offer theme-based, cross-cultural inspired projects with a focus on ideas and techniques to build on the maker's own personal voice. In her own studio practice, she creates wheel thrown and altered work inspired by her Scandinavian heritage, with deep interest in ancient cultures and landscapes, focusing on everyday rituals--serving food and drink, vessels for plants and burning incense, and with surfaces reflecting the flow of water and fire.


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Patty Kochaver, Artist

Patty has been working in clay for over thirty years, and for the last twenty eight years has been teaching ceramics in the Chicago area. Her studio is at the Midwest Clay Guild in Evanston, IL. She has been in numerous national and international exhibits.

Artist Statement:
As a longtime wheel thrower I eventually moved from mostly utilitarian ware to forms created for the sake of pushing form. Function was secondary. Each change in curve and direction is intentional to create a piece with balance, volume and nuance, while always keeping in mind the potential for expressive surfaces. Saggar firing is the way I like to work these surfaces, pushing pattern and abstract imagery using only carbon, masking materials and metal salts. These materials that I apply on the surfaces of the pieces and interior of the saggars are chosen because of the color, line, flashing and masking effects they provide. There is little certainty in this type of sawdust firing, so I work instinctively using knowledge from previous firings with an experimental approach. Each firing reveals new information which begs for further exploration.


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Robin Power, Artist

Chicagoland native, Robin Power received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute Chicago where her primary area of focus was figurative. As teaching artist, she has taught and hosted workshops in figurative sculpture and ceramics at many Chicago area studios and schools. Robin exhibits her own work at local and national galleries and museum exhibitions.

Artist Statement: Proficient in many art materials, disciplines and techniques, my true love is ceramics. Clay is where I have found my creative voice and artistic freedom of expression. I am passionate about sharing my artistic knowledge with others. It gives me great pleasure to mentor students along their creative path and personal growth.