Potter Laureate – Michael Kujawa
“As a child I was fascinated with fire. To say that fire sparked or ignited my curiosity is the worst of puns though it is the truth.”
Michael Kujawa grew up in Butte, Montana. Learning how to throw when he was five years old, Kujawa grew up seeing his father lead the charge in bringing ceramics to Butte public schools during the seventies and eighties. After graduating from Butte High, Mike joined the Marine Corps and later attended Montana State University in Bozeman, where he studied Physical Science and Education. While in Bozeman, Kujawa rediscovered his love for art in the MSU ceramics studio and added an art minor to his degree program. In 1995, he returned to Butte to teach both Physical Science and Art at Butte High.
Kujawa has since taken over the ceramics program his father pioneered, and became the art department head for the Butte School District. He began Art Club, a weekly open studio for students, and Art Trek, a yearly trip to Seattle and Portland for art students. Kujawa has been a key member of the arts community in Butte, most recently serving as a key coordinator for the Empty Bowls Project, a ceramics based fundraiser to feed local children in need.
In 2002, Mike and his father started Copper Creek Studio, where the family creates functional pottery. The family sells their work throughout the state at several fairs and festivals.
After twenty-four years of teaching, I expected to find my philosophy easily articulated. Instead, I’ve found it a profound exercise in introspection. I’ve discovered my philosophy is fluid, influenced by the constant changes in the profession, and informed by each student that walks through my door.
Fundamentally, for me, teaching is about encouraging growth, acknowledging individuality, nurturing creativity, and honoring the unique person that is the student. My students are my equals; we are all in the process of acquiring knowledge and building skills.
My former students and the experiences they’ve shared with me have given me insight into what I’ve contributed to education thus far in my career. According to them, my greatest contribution is providing a safe and accepting atmosphere where students can discover their creativity and exercise their imaginations. They learn to see the act of creation as a process involving many steps over time, they practice perseverance in spite of uncertainty of the outcome, and they learn that challenging their own perceptions and abilities can be a very rewarding experience. From my perspective, my contribution as a teacher is providing a spark to help light students’ creativity and providing a space where their imaginations and confidence can grow.”