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From a little piece of clay

June 07, 2006|By Joyce Rudolph

Inspiration is a two-way street at the ceramics department of the Roger Barkley Community Center in La Cañada Flintridge.

Watching her students grow is great motivation, said instructor/director Helen Jean Taylor. And students say Taylor has the knack for instilling the confidence they can't seem to muster themselves.

Taylor has had plenty of experience. She started at the center in 1966.

She will be honored for her 40 years of dedication during the opening reception for the center's ceramics sale on Friday night.

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"The fact I have been able to indulge myself, as it were, in doing something I love, doing ceramics and teaching ceramics, it gives me enormous pleasure to see other people create beautiful things, and it's my pleasure to watch that growth," she said.

Born in England, the 79-year-old left her home country in 1956 and settled in Canada for three years. That's when she started taking ceramics classes as a hobby. She moved to South Africa in 1959 and continued to take ceramics classes. Three years later, she came to Los Angeles.

When Taylor started at the center ? then called the La Cañada Youth House ? the ceramics department was practically nonexistent, she said.

"I started out with two classes with six people each," she said. "It took about a year until I had about 100 students a week, both adults and children. The children's classes grew faster than the adults', largely because there was a great need in the community."

One of Taylor's students, Maureen Siegel, who is also a member of the center's board of directors, said Taylor has more confidence in the students abilities than they do.

When Siegel came to the center more than a decade ago she hadn't taken a pottery class in 30 years. Taylor encouraged her to enter some of her first pieces in the center's twice-annual arts sale. Siegel put more than a dozen items in the sale and decided to come to the first day just before it opened. She was dismayed to find all her items missing.

"I came in and all of the things weren't on display," she said. "I thought they didn't meet the standards."

While wondering how she would ever get over the rejection and return to class, she went over to the woman organizing the sale and started to apologize for her work.

"But the woman told me everything had already sold before the sale began," she said. "Jane has more faith and confidence in her students then we do in ourselves."

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