Remeniuk uses scholarship to pursue passion for pottery

COILING TO THE TOP: Using stoneware clay to create a coil pot, senior Alex Remeniuk works on a piece of pottery he hopes to finish in time for the AP Art Show. Remeniuk was able to further his passion for pottery through winning South’s William H. Schreiner Memorial Arts Scholarship, which brought him to New Mexico for a pottery class.

Ashley Clark

COILING TO THE TOP: Using stoneware clay to create a coil pot, senior Alex Remeniuk works on a piece of pottery he hopes to finish in time for the AP Art Show. Remeniuk was able to further his passion for pottery through winning South’s William H. Schreiner Memorial Arts Scholarship, which brought him to New Mexico for a pottery class.

Aakash Bhojwani and John Park

According to senior Alex Remeniuk, he took his first ceramics class at South thinking it would be an easy course. Little did he know that his first class would send him on a journey filled with challenges and improvement that would define ceramics as a lifelong passion. Through the help of the William H. Schreiner Memorial Arts Scholarship, Remeniuk was able to further pursue his passion at pottery classes in New Mexico last summer.

Last year, Remeniuk was encouraged by Kurt Webb, South ceramics teacher, to apply for the scholarship. According to Remeniuk, the scholarship awards funds to someone who is devoted to the arts at South. Dr. Schreiner was the principal of South for 26 years and according to Webb, he had very high expectations for art students and encouraged them to achieve those expectations.

“When [the scholarship] is offered to students or when students apply to that and get that, it’s kind of carrying on that tradition of those expectations that Dr. Schreiner had for the school and for the students here,” Webb said.

By winning the scholarship, Remeniuk was given the funds to go to New Mexico to take the Lucy Lewis Pottery Class at the Taos Art School this past summer.

“There were only eight or nine people in this class, and I was the youngest there,” Remeniuk said. “It was a bunch of older people, teachers, just people [who] wanted to try something new.”

Remeniuk did not decide to keep his experiences from New Mexico to himself. Remeniuk says he created a book capturing his experiences from the trip for Webb because he was the one who inspired him to apply for the scholarship.

“After I came back from New Mexico, as a gift around the holidays, I made Mr. Webb […] a photo book from Apple [Photos],” Remeniuk said. “It had pictures from […] my trip, so he could relive it through that.”

Webb says that receiving this book was an incredible honor. He was very delighted to see how much Remeniuk had matured as an artist and a person through the experience.

“It was really extraordinary to get that from him,” Webb said. “He dedicated the book to me which was an incredible honor, and [on] the first page, he wrote me a letter […] talking about how that experience really had a big impact on him.”

Remeniuk’s passion for ceramics was first discovered during his sophomore year when he took his first ceramics course at South. After experimenting with various different types of pottery for one year, Remeniuk found a style that he would stick with.

“I found this one style of pottery [called]  Ortiz, which is from Chihuahua, Mexico,” Remeniuk said. “[…] I’ve tried to recreate it a little bit, and that’s been my motive ever since the end of junior year until now.”

According to Remeniuk, Mata Ortiz is a southwestern form of decorative pottery. Webb explains that Remeniuk sets high aspirations for himself and attempted to enter a professional art show. Although he was rejected, he did not let that discourage him or change his interest in Mata Ortiz.

“It became a goal for him to make work good enough that he could not only impress high school students, [but that he could] impress professional artists, and that’s a big, big difference,” Webb said.

Although both Webb and Remeniuk understand that Remeniuk is not yet a professional, Webb believes that as a high school student, Remeniuk is doing “exceptional work” and exhibits a unique internal motivation that pushes him to work harder.

“He buys clays that I don’t have here,” Webb said. “He goes to art stores and buys them, and he’ll talk about how incredible the material is. That’s pretty exciting, and truly that’s kind of on a high level. That’s more of what professional artists think about.”

Senior Paola Santos-De Soto is Remeniuk’s classmate in ceramics. According to her, Remeniuk’s unique style and work ethic contribute to the intrigue and quality of all the pieces that he’s worked on.

“It’s ridiculous how he comes up with designs that [are] interesting [and] difficult,” Santos-De Soto said. “ He has a lot of patience which is something I admire. He can [work] for hours on one single piece or even days and weeks on one single piece just perfecting it to the point where he feels it’s ready. His overall building and construction skills are incredible. I don’t think I have seen any of his projects break or anything because they are so well built. They last a long time and they are very light which is something that is very hard to do.”

When he first started off, Remeniuk thought that pottery would be an easy class, but he soon realized the difficulty of it. In his ceramics class, he learned what makes the art so intriguing for both the artist and audience.

“If you get one thing wrong, you can just end up with a disaster,” Remeniuk said. “I think that’s really intriguing to me. You have to do things right in that class. Once you do it, things can come out extraordinary.”

According to Webb, one of Remeniuk’s best qualities as a ceramic artist is how he handles the challenges that come along with the art. Webb explains that all potters, including Remeniuk, encounter several failures, such as pieces blowing up when they are fired. But that does not bring down Remeniuk’s motivation or confidence.

“He knows that [challenges are] a part of really what makes the achievement even more special,” Webb said. “When you’ve gone on this long journey, and it’s not a straight journey–it’s a winding, meandering kind of journey–he’s willing to accept that. And that’s pretty rare for a student. Most students are used to having success in everything they do.”

Santos-De Soto explains that Remeniuk does not just pursue his passion during school hours. She says that he works on pieces at home as well, and his passion for ceramics is easily noticeable to everyone he interacts with.

“[Ceramics] is something he works on in and outside of school,” Santos-De Soto said. “He is always coming in and out of school with a box […] filled with stuff that he does at home. He will spend days on projects just to make [them] perfect. [Ceramics] is a hobby that he absolutely loves; he is very passionate about it.”

Remeniuk says that pottery has developed into a passion that he will continue to pursue throughout his life. But according to him, this was only possible through his involvement in the GBS Art Department.

“The past couple years in South, I’ve been thinking about how I can get more involved [here],” Remeniuk said. “I played soccer in the fall this year […] but the GBS Art Department [is] my home here at South. That’s where I go to in the mornings, during class, after school. It’s a second home for me here at South.”