The Art Around You


To some, getting into art may be intimidating. It may not be a space that you feel like you fit in, or you may struggle to understand the techniques and lingo. Even though you might feel like you can’t even draw a stick figure, don’t let that deter you from tapping into the creative side everyone has. Art can give you the opportunity to de-stress, express yourself, and explore your passions. Stoughton High School student artists and local art businesses encourage individuals to get involved, no matter where they are at skillswise. Although Stoughton may not house the Met or the Louvre, it is home to many talented artists and is a supportive community. If you look a little further, you will learn how much art is around you.

Throwing pottery can be a perfect way to relax. Wait, no, that doesn’t mean that you should go toss your family’s heirloom ceramic meatloaf dish to try and alleviate your anxiety. Instead, try grabbing some clay, sitting down at a pottery wheel, and going with the flow.
SHS junior Grace Kirby was introduced to ceramics her sophomore year when she decided to try something new and take a ceramics class. A year and several sculptures later, Kirby now dedicates a significant amount of time to her craft. Her mom motivated her to get started, but her ceramics teacher assisted her in advancing.
“My mom told me how much fun she had doing ceramics in high school, so I thought I would try it. [She] sparked my interest in ceramics, but Mr. Brabender is who inspires me to continue reaching to excel in his class,” Kirby explains.
Kirby also enjoys drawing and painting, but ceramics has proven to be her current favorite artistic medium by far. She is motivated to keep improving her work, and her current aspiration is to continue to create bigger and bigger sculptures.
Kirby appreciates the way ceramics has allowed her to think outside the box.
“Ceramics made me learn how to have a creative outlook on everything,” Kirby says.
Currently, Kirby spends two to three hours in the ceramics studio a day, and she also has the necessary tools and materials to create her artwork at home, as well. She dedicates a significant portion of her time to advancing her skills on the wheel and beginning new projects.
Kirby is interested in potentially selling her work when she feels like she has become quicker at sculpting and throwing, and she takes great care in the quality and detail of her work.
Kirby recommends anyone who is interested in art to take the jump.
“Advice I would give to those who want to try art is just to do it. Don’t overthink everything; just let your mind go blank and draw, paint, or throw a pot,” Kirby says. “Just don’t be such a critic of yourself because you will not progress if you continue telling yourself that you are not good.”

A short drive from Stoughton, art studio Fired Up Pottery, located at 4112 Monona Dr. is a perfect space for total clay novices and pottery masters alike. Their most popular activity is painting your own pottery. For as low as $5, you can gossip and sip Starbucks with friends while making a beautiful(ish) creation! They have pre-made ceramic pieces, such as animal trinkets, mugs, and pots, all at different price points. Once you find what speaks to you, you sit down and start to paint your work, and you have the freedom to do whatever you want. Then, you will be torn away from your masterpiece for seven-ten days as Fired Up Pottery puts your piece in the kiln and finishes the process for you. Editor-in-Chief Ava Parr and Associate Editor-in-Chief Lauren Amstadt both painted their own pottery, and they both agreed it was a perfect way to have some fun after school. Although they may not have created masterpieces, they had a good time, which alleviated the pressure that creating art can sometimes have. This is a great opportunity for those who are interested in pottery but are intimidated when it comes to where to start. You can become more familiar with a space that focuses on ceramics while brushing up on your painting skills. But what if you’re interested in advancing your pottery expertise? Fired Up Pottery also houses numerous pottery wheels and has lessons available for those who want to learn not just how to paint pottery, but to create it as well. Pottery can be a way to escape your busy day-to-day and forces you to be in the moment and focus on just one thing. If you decide to consistently dedicate a bit of time and energy to the craft, one day, you may just create a mug that you are not ashamed of being seen drinking out of.

“I feel like I’m advancing in age ten times more than a normal person, so I’m already 70 years old,” Senior Jordan Packard says.
Packard makes this claim because, besides participating in sports and clubs in school, she spends a lot of her free time crocheting, cross-stitching, and embroidering.
While these hobbies have no age restrictions, she feels similar to her grandma when creating this type of art because that’s who originally got her started in these crafts.
“I learned how to cross-stitch because I inherited some kits from my grandma, and I used them because it had all of the materials included. I then watched some YouTube videos, but I didn’t go to classes or have anyone else teach me how [to create this type of art], so I just self-taught myself mostly,” Packard says.
For those unfamiliar with crocheting, cross-stitching, and embroidering, the three may seem virtually the same, but each art has its own guidelines and styles.
“Crochet is very different because that’s using yarn, and you can use it to make clothes, blankets, and hats. Then for embroidery, you use it to make mostly freehand designs, and in cross stitching, you use a grid pattern. Embroidery is usually on a plain cloth whereas cross stitching is on a grid cloth,” Packard says.
While Packard is very experienced and knowledgeable with the three art forms today, this wasn’t always the case.
“You always start off a bit iffy, but since I had so much free time, I started creating the art a lot so then I got a lot better. I was doing it mostly just for myself, family, and friends, and I’d hang the art up in my room or gift it to people,” Packard says.
Packard’s artistic journey started during COVID-19 when she was looking for something “to do while not doing anything.” Since then, her hobby has opened up new opportunities she didn’t expect to experience.
“I started selling my art at Grasshopper Goods, which is where I work now. That’s actually how I ended up getting my job there,” Packard says. “My mom and I were shopping there once and looking at embroidery, and my mom went up went up [to an employee] and was like, ‘oh my god, my daughter embroiders,’ and in my head, I was like, ‘I need to leave the store right now’ […] but then the employee was like ‘Would you be interested in coming by sometime and showing me the work that we could possibly commission.’ So then I started commissioning for them, and then she asked for me to work there as an employee, as well.”
As of now, Packard has taken a break from commissioning for Grasshopper Goods because of her busy schedule, but she continues to work there and spends around seven hours a week working on anything from tank tops to bags to stuffed animals.
Packard especially indulged her time in her artistic talents during COVID because “[I was] dealing with a lot of stressors, so for me, it was really relaxing to be able to just focus on such tiny things because it takes your mind off the big picture sometimes,” Packard says.
Today, Packard still appreciates these benefits of her craft, along with the soft skills it has taught her along the way.
“[This art] has made me more comfortable with being bored. I think we are always taught to be like ‘go go go,’ so it’s helped me a lot with being like ‘it’s okay to sit down and relax for a while’ instead,” Packard says.
After graduating high school this year, Packard hopes to continue with her craft, whether that be through her very own Etsy shop, by commissions at a store near her university in Minnesota, or at Grasshopper Goods once again.
No matter her decision, Packard will continue to pursue her art for her own enjoyment because “it’s so cool to see the hours that you put into something and then seeing art that’s so unique and handcrafted,” Packard says.

Walking down Stoughton’s Main Street, it’s easy to get carried away by the delectable smells of cheese curds and donuts, but before you stop for your mid-afternoon snack, there are plenty of artistic shops to check out. Spry Whimsy Fiber Arts, located at 168 W Main St., is home to thousands of threads and creative opportunities. Upon entering the store, Ava Parr and Lauren Amstadt were embraced by the colorful and stylish products and decor. Throughout the store, shoppers can find an array of embroidery kits, yarn in every color and material, and guidance books from “A to Z Crochet” to “Knowledgeable Knitter.”
“This fiber arts store has something for everyone, whether you’re an experienced artist or those just starting out,” Parr says.
Overall, Spry Whimsy Fiber Arts is the perfect place in town to collect material or find inspiration for your next artistic journey.

Whether one is walking down the halls of Stoughton High School or looking around its student section at sports games, one could see several students rocking handmade earrings made by one of SHS’s very own freshmen, Audra Smith.
Smith started making jewelry about a year and a half ago because she “loves making things for people,” Smith says.
Smith didn’t start her artistic journey alone. She credits her persistence in jewelry making to her older sister, senior Ciré Smith.
“Cire hyped me up to start making jewelry, and she gave me a lot of compliments. She doesn’t make the jewelry with me, but she helps make the packaging and keep organized and run the Instagram,” Smith says.
Smith’s Instagram, @jewelrybyaudra, is where anyone around the community can order her earrings. She often delivers to her biggest customers, SHS students, at school, but also doesn’t shy away from making in-person deliveries.
On her jewelry Instagram, one can find an array of earrings for sale, from clay to beaded ones, in every color imaginable. Throughout the months of experimenting, Smith has found what specific jewelry works best for her.
“I started with what is called molding clay, and it didn’t even dry, so I would attach them [to the earring metal], and they would just fall apart. Then I decided I could use air-dry clay and bake it and seal it,” Smith says. “I got more experienced with clay, but also started using more beads, especially for homecoming.”
During most weeks of the year, Smith spends about three hours a week working on her jewelry business, but throughout her busy weeks, around holidays and school events, she must commit more time due to the increase in orders placed.
“I get some orders out of the blue for gifts and things, but one time I got like 30 orders for Christmas, and for Valentine’s Day, there were a lot of orders, especially with the cheaper earrings I sell for two dollars,” Smith says.
Smith is able to price her earrings so reasonably because she buys her supplies in bulk. She often sells her clay earrings for six to ten dollars and her beaded ones sell for two to four dollars because they are often less intricate to make.
Although for Smith, her jewelry making isn’t for profit, but rather for the joy it gives her.
“My favorite part about making the jewelry is seeing people at school wearing them. People are like, ‘Audra, Look at my earrings!’ and it feels so good that people actually wear them because, at the beginning, I didn’t think anyone would even buy them,” Smith says.
For her earrings, Smith finds inspiration from Pinterest and from requests made by her friends and family. She makes anything from succulents, to dinosaurs, to mushrooms, but it doesn’t mean creating these pieces is easy.
“The most challenging part [of making the earrings] is when people order clay ones, and I have to replicate them because it’s hard when they see a photo, but I can’t make the earrings all the same. I try really hard to make them both the same size [as well],” Smith says.
Luckily, Smith has a large support group behind her, cheering her on through every step of the process.
“There’s some people that really hype me up even when the earrings don’t turn out perfect, and they get me excited. [For example], Madison Kendrick orders [earrings] for every holiday even if I don’t sell them, she’ll ask for them,” Smith says.
Not only does her jewelry allow Smith to feel rewarded by her loved ones, but it has also taught her other useful life skills.
“Overall my fine motor skills and patience improved after starting to create earrings,” Smith says.
Due to all the benefits that Smith has discovered through her jewelry-making and selling, she hopes to continue her business even after Ciré goes to college in the fall.
Smith also encourages anyone else who might be interested in making jewelry, or any form of art to try it out.
“I would just go for it because you’re going to get better as you keep going. No matter where you start, even if you’re not great at it, you’re going to improve,’ Smith says.


Diakonos Designs, located at 154 E Main St., is easy to spot with its emerald green awning and floor-to-ceiling windows. Looking through the windows, Ava Parr and Lauren Amstadt saw cubbies and stands holding any jewelry enthusiast’s dream bead collection. Products offered in store range from bracelet-making kits, to strings of pearls and shells, to fully finished earrings and necklaces. Amstadt purchased a Wisconsin badger themed bracelet kit to try out at home. While checking out, a Diakonos Designs employee gave Amstadt a quick tutorial on how to make the bracelet and answered all of her questions
“The employees were super personable and helpful. Ava and I talked to them just about the whole time we were in the store,” Amstadt says.
In all, this small business is a hidden gem for those interested in creating or buying jewelry.


Every SASD student is required to take at least one fine art class in order to graduate. Luckily, there is a wide variety of classes students can participate in to obtain the needed fine arts credit. From ceramics to photography to painting, there is something for every range of interest and experience. Ruth Phillips, chairof the art department, thinks of some of the reasons why someone may be wary of taking an art class.
“I think some of the intimidation is from past experiences. Maybe they don’t feel that they have the skills to be in an art class, [and I think] COVID and learning online affected a lot of students because they didn’t get that one-on-one instruction, and had to work independently,” Phillips says.
However, Phillips reassures students that there is a place for everyone in art classes. One lesser-known art class that has truly shone this year is printmaking. It may be a good option for those who may not be interested in the traditional standards of art.
“It’s a class where you don’t have to be an outstanding artist, but you’re learning different processes of printmaking, and probably developing your art skills,” Phillips says. “But there’s a lot of students in that printmaking class that had never taken an art class before. So you don’t have to be an art person to take printmaking. But you have to love to experiment.”
Interested in supporting SHS student artists? From May 19 to the end of the school year, the art department will be hosting an advanced art show, showcasing outstanding work from the advanced art class, as well as the printmaking and drawing and painting classes. This show will be available for anyone to view, and it will be located outside of SHS’s Preforming Arts Center.
Phillips will also be submitting SHS student’s work to the Badger Conference Art Show, a juried contest many Wisconsin schools participate in. The closing ceremony, which will showcase all of the winning art, will be held in Fort Akinson, on May 20.

Art truly has the opportunity to create fulfillment and joy in your day-to-day life. However, the artists around you believe that this can only happen if you take the pressure and perfectionism regarding art off of yourself. Take some time to try sculpting, knitting, creating jewelry, or any other form of art that speaks to you, without worrying about whether it will be “good” or not. If we give up art because we suck, then we will always suck at art. The only way you will genuinely be able to improve is if you keep on trying. It has the potential to bring some true joy into your life, just as it does for so many individuals in our community. What’s stopping you from joining in?