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Teacher builds confidence at the potter’s wheel

For Kara Bledsoe, the journey as a teacher of pottery and wheel classes at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough has already been a rewarding one and she is looking forward to more.


“Art has always been a part of my world,” Kara Bledsoe said, as she cleans up a pottery wheel used by a student in her “Young Potters” class. Bledsoe teaches pottery and wheel classes for youth at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

“As a child, my mother and father both made crafts and did local crafts sales, especially wood crafts. I was always around that, and I’d make things alongside them to take to the crafts sales also.” She described how, as a toddler, her parents would allow her to help with base coat painting, as well as helping to set up and tear down the shows, giving her a real view into a working artist’s life.

“I grew up seeing a value in creating things. My mother also sewed a lot of my clothes and made our Halloween costumes. That was a privilege I had in my upbringing. I was exposed at a young age to the creation process.”

Some of this process changed as she grew older. She told of a high school art teacher that was highly critical of students’ work, and how she shrunk as a creative artist under such scrutiny at a young age. “I didn’t thrive under that kind of pressure. There is a school of thought about teaching the realities of the harshness of life a person faces as a working artist. But I think first, there needs to be a foundation where a student can feel secure about what they are learning and what they are doing.”

Bledsoe stepped away from doing art in high school because of those critical pressures. She enrolled in environmental studies in college. The school offered an open studio, where a student could buy a bag of clay and just work on a wheel. In a short time, Bledsoe found her way back to creating art projects. As she helped others in the studio find their vision, it became clear that her path in life was to become an art teacher.

“I teach pottery wheel and hand-building. But to me, the most important thing I teach is confidence building, and allowing the students to get the confidence they need to create something they have in their mind.” Bledsoe goes on to say that especially in younger years, children need to get the sense of self-satisfaction from completing a project and fulfilling the vision that started in their heads and being able to follow through and make a finished work.

“Starting from scratch like that, children get a sense of not only completing the project, but they get to see how sometimes an idea can change, in order to make an even better piece. That’s an important element of learning, not just in art, but in life.”

Bledsoe, who has taught as the McKinney Center for three years now, earned her BFA with a concentration in ceramics from East Tennessee State University and spent several years teaching the after-school art program through the Johnson City Arts Corps. She has had a solo art exhibit with the Johnson City Area Arts Council, as well as several group art exhibits throughout the region. She was also a member of TACA. Bledsoe became a faculty member of the McKinney Center three years ago and will begin her fourth year this spring teaching children’s pottery and clay classes.

In addition to her art, Bledsoe is a mother to her young daughter, Rose, and enjoys spending time exploring creative opportunities with her child.

“I’d say my favorite thing about the work I do is that contagious moment when I feel kids getting excited about their project, and then at the end of class, everyone has their object they created. There is such a sense of joy and satisfaction, and that is where I get my satisfaction in life, too.”

To register for Bledsoe’s Young Potters class this spring, or other courses being taught at the McKinney Center, contact McKinney Center director Theresa Hammons at [email protected] or call 423-753-0562. Full catalogs are available at