By Siamack Esmaili, Backstage SoCal writer
When Paige Mushakian enrolled in her first ever ceramics class last year, she never in her wildest dreams thought it would lead to winning multiple national competitions for her work, but that’s exactly what happened.
“I was not expecting this. I just wanted to have fun,” said Paige, who beat out hundreds of entrants from across the country at this year’s National K12 Ceramics Exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her piece, called “Fish Whistle,” won the Potters Council Elementary School Award and the Monstrously Talented Award, which gives out $100 and recognizes “the creative whimzy and mad skillz of an emerging K-12 ceramic artist.”
“We are just thrilled and excited that Paige was honored by the annual National Ceramics Exhibition in this way,” said Sharbie Higuchi, a representative of the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach where Paige created her piece.
Paige, who was just seven when she made her “Fish Whistle,” prevailed against a field of entrants that included kids who were more than twice her age. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that she created her award-winning piece in just one hour. The ceramics class that Paige took, a Festival of Arts Youth Art Class, was a one-time one-hour course.
The students’ assignment, according to Paige’s instructor Scott Young, was “to create some kind of animal whistle. They had an hour to create their project.” Young was so impressed with Paige’s project that he decided to enter it in the competitions.
“Scott decided that he loved the piece that she had created so much,” said Huguchi, “that he presented it to the annual national ceramics exhibition, and she actually received multiple awards for it.”
For those wondering what a “Fish Whistle” is, Paige offered this description: “the little snout thing on the mouth—that’s the whistle part. You gently put your lips to it and blow, and it makes a beautiful sound. It’s really fun to play the music on it.”
Paige’s project, which is currently on display at the Festival of Arts in Laguna, instantly caught Young’s eye “because of the way she constructed the fish—the fins, the tail were pretty outstanding as far as comparing it to the other kids’ projects. But also the way she finished it with the multi-colored glazes that enhanced those parts and made the fish stand out.”
Paige plans to give half of her prize money to Case for Character, a project that provides suitcases for kids in foster care. According to Paige, foster kids usually have nothing more than a garbage bag to haul their belongings in. Case for Character gives them something more permanent, something they can call their own and take pride in.
It was Paige’s aunt, who had previously taken her own daughters to the same class, who encouraged her to enroll in the course. Said Paige: “My auntie signed me up because she knew I Iike to do crafts, and I loved it.”
Her favorite part of the class was that it allowed her to be creative. She learned that “it’s not really what people tell you; you can do whatever you want. Make it fun! Make it artistic! Make it abstract!”
After winning multiple national awards, being the subject of several articles and having her work displayed at a major arts festival, Paige wants to continue taking ceramics classes and—after a career as a “rock star” in high school—hopes to one day work as a ceramics maker. But for now, she’s just having fun being a ceramics star.
For more information on the Festival of the Arts and various arts classes, visit www.foapom.com
The Laguna Beach Festival of Arts is a 501c3 with a mission to promote, produce, and sponsor events and activities that encourage the appreciation, study and performance of the arts. Throughout each year the Festival of Arts sponsors art education programming, art exhibits and provides art scholarships to local high school students as well as grants for local non-profit art organizations through its Foundation.
The annual Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach is currently running through Sept. 1. For more information on the festival and various arts classes, visit www.foapom.com