Molly Baring-Gould: Kiln It With Kindness

by Ellyssa Jeong and Anya Lefkowitz, Centerfold Editors
photo contributed by Molly Baring-Gould

Faculty members rise to the challenges of a remote learning community and are going above and beyond to help their students. Baring-Gould, pictured above, glazes a student’s ceramic sculpture in preparation for firing

After years of contemplating whether or not to invest in a throwing wheel, Senior Grace Mirabile decided to take the jump when Newton Public Schools announced that students would start the year remotely. Mirabile said that without ceramics teacher Molly Baring-Gould’s guidance, she wouldn’t have been able to set up her home studio. 

“There are a whole bunch of complicated things that I never would have thought about, like owning a wheel, throwing at home, recycling the clay and making sure I clean my workspace properly so I don’t die of silica poisoning from having glaze dust everywhere,” she said. “She’s just been the biggest resource ever with that. She wasn’t directly involved in the making of the space, but like I said, I’m so corny, but her support has just been overwhelming.”

Though some students, like Mirabile, have had the opportunity to invest in and have access to resources, Baring-Gould said that during this school year, she has adapted to meet all of her students’ needs and support their ability to create art no matter the circumstances. At the beginning of the year, she said, it was especially challenging to figure out how to engage her classes in art without a typical studio setup. 

“Always having 10 alternatives for what we’re trying to do has been the goal. We’ve put together materials for some students and had a pick-up place at school. I’ve collected materials and put them on the loading dock for other students depending on who the student is or what the need is,” she said.

At the beginning of the school year, Baring-Gould said, it was especially challenging to figure out how to engage her students.

“The first couple of weeks of school when everyone was silent on Zoom, there were a lot of screens off, and no one had started making anything yet. We were trying to do team building, and I felt like it wasn’t working. A huge shift took place for me when people started submitting what they were making at home, and I started to see that things were actually working,” she said. 

With the unavoidable disconnecting nature of Zoom, Baring-Gould said she strives to connect with her students by giving them time to reflect on artists and the relationship they have with their own lives.

“They’re being much more expressive through writing than they are wanting to be through speaking with their camera on in Zoom. When they write, it’s almost like everything that hasn’t been said for the last couple of weeks is coming out,” she said. 

Baring-Gould said that her new approach to pandemic teaching has let students reflect deeply.

“Tying that thread of the ways in which the artists themselves are working has been helping students make more personal work and work that has much more of a personal or public statement,” she said. “I feel like my students’ artwork not only has become more personal this year … but it has also given them a voice.”