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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2007
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Linda Lee, left, a former art teacher at Decatur High School, gives instruction to Vikki Reich during a pottery class. Lee recently opened The Artist Within, an art studio where she teaches seventh-graders and older.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Linda Lee, left, a former art teacher at Decatur High School, gives instruction to Vikki Reich during a pottery class. Lee recently opened The Artist Within, an art studio where she teaches seventh-graders and older.

The fire within
Retired Decatur High art teacher
opens studio to share her passion

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com 340-2447

Vikki Reich flattens clay with rolling pins as she prepares to make her latest creation in art teacher Linda Lee's intermediate pottery class. The Moulton woman, working alongside three classmates, eyes her clay against the sample piece of work, comparing the thickness of each piece.

Students in Linda Lees pottery class at her studio, The Artist Within, made ocarinas that look like fish, decorative jack-o-lanterns and other small pieces.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Students in Linda Lees pottery class at her studio, The Artist Within, made ocarinas that look like fish, decorative jack-o-lanterns and other small pieces.
Lee bustles around the room, answering student's questions such as, "Is this clay going too dry?" or "How big does the bottom piece need to be?"

Along with answering questions, Lee is accomplishing something far greater — living her lifelong dream of opening her own art studio. She recently retired from 30 years of teaching art at Decatur High School.

Lee's Decatur studio, The Artist Within, opened for classes in October in its Bank Street location.

"This has been my dream forever," she said. "We walked into this place and my husband and I both said, 'This place is perfect!' "

After looking at numerous locations that all seemed to have flaws such as carpeted floors or no parking, the spacious Bank Street space fit the bill. She and her husband are still working on the property, which she describes as a "family project." Her daughters help, too, when they're in town from school at the University of Montevallo.

The space includes a potter's wheel — a birthday gift to Lee last spring — wooden shelves her husband recently built, and painted bamboo bead curtains with images of Munch's "The Scream" and Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from a trip to Gatlinburg last year. Drying pottery lines the workroom near a poster identifying different pottery glazes.

Lee's classes this term — pottery and drawing classes for seventh-graders up to adults — began Jan. 8 and run for seven weeks. As interest grows, she hopes to garner more students so she can offer a greater variety of classes.

Currently, she offers two beginning pottery classes, which are offered in the night and morning, two drawing classes offered at night and in the morning, and one intermediate pottery class Wednesday morning. She also teaches classes at Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

"I wanted something that also could accommodate people who are in school as well as people who are working," she said.

Lee's interest in teaching began as a high school student, when she decided she could probably teach art better than it was being taught to her.

Three of her former students are now local art teachers, and she hopes that she had a part in inspiring them, she said.

Giving something back

Retiring from teaching art at Decatur High was tough, but the thought of her new venture made it possible.

"When I retired I still wanted to be able to teach art," she said. "I wanted to be able to give something back to the community."

Her intermediate pottery students say they've learned a lot from Lee.

"She's very good and we have fun," said Sandra Cross of Moulton, who developed an interest in pottery after she took a college course years ago. However, it's an expensive hobby, so she never started it on her own, she said.

Cross, along with fellow students Reich, Lynn Littrell and Bobbi Shelton, all of Moulton, took a pottery class from Lee last term, too.

"I'd wanted to take pottery for years," Reich said. So when she was given an opportunity to only "embarrass herself in front of her friends," she signed up for Lee's class.

So far, the women have made ocarinas that look like fish, decorative jack-o'-lanterns and other small pieces.

The art classes seemed difficult in the beginning, Littrell said.

"I think at first we were a little scared of it, so I think it was a little hard," she said.

It's gotten easier now, the women agreed, but a lot of the work is still trial and error. In fact, Shelton's fish ocarina she made last week presented some difficulties.

"I put my scales on backward and realized the scales don't go that way and had to start over," she said, laughing.

"We are terrible, but we have a good time," Reich echoed.

Which is good enough for Lee.

"I love art and I love sharing it," she said.

"When they (students) finish my class maybe they won't have the same love of art but they'll have learned something about art."

Ready to find your 'Artist Within?'

Linda Lee's next seven-week term of classes will start March 26. For more information, contact Lee at 309-8068.

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