Ceramics students sculpt up a non-profit

Anya Ghazi

As sophomore Rylee Feehan and junior Fallon O’Keefe spin the ceramics wheel in the ceramics classroom, they continue to find a growing connection between the clay and themselves. Molding the clay into various shapes and designs, creating mugs, bowls, vases, and other pieces, the girls realized their creative potential to turn their love for ceramics into something worthwhile by selling their handmade pottery pieces to local shops and businesses around Marin through their nonprofit business, Coastal Ceramics.

Throwing on the wheel, Fallon O’Keefe handcrafts a piece to be further sold for Coastal Ceramics

O’Keefe and Feehan are not looking to make money for themselves. They’ve started the project to raise funds for another passion of theirs: saving the ocean. They will donate 100 percent of their profits to Fantastic Oceans, an ocean conservation nonprofit.

“Our overall goal is to clean our oceans. We decided to combine our passions for both the ocean and ceramics into one. It’s been a great experience for both of us so far. [Our ceramics teacher, Branford] Butler has really encouraged us [to pursue] our passion,” O’Keefe said. 

Butler admires their business plan and is interested in their efforts to keep the oceans clean. 

“As a surfer and a fisherman, I admire their efforts in keeping our oceans healthy,” Butler said. “This is the first time I’ve seen students sell their work to donate their earnings to a non-profit organization, which is very admirable. They have a wonderful, positive, and uplifting energy that helps build a strong community around ceramics.” 

Since they started working together, both Feehan and O’Keefe have committed countless hours to their project in the classroom. 

“I have been very interested in pottery and really wanted to explore that interest. When I started [ceramics], I immediately fell in love and it became a great passion of mine,” O’Keefe said. 

Similar to O’Keefe, Feehan has built her love for ceramics over the previous years, as she loves the unique aspect of it and wants to continue her ceramics career in the future. 

Preparing to be sold to a local shop, Fallon and O’Keefe snap some photos of recently made pieces to display on their website

“I’ve worked [on pottery] ever since I was little. I am passionate about ceramics and love the community it has created. Whether I’m at Redwood or an outside studio, I have built many connections and am excited to continue this passion when I’m older,” Feehan said. 

 O’Keefe and Feehan have grown as ceramic artists over the last year with guidance from Butler. Butler has taught ceramics classes at Redwood for four years and teaches his students different techniques. With his guidance, O’Keefe and Feehan have strengthened their skills on the wheel and produced great work. 

“[Feehan] and [O’Keefe] are no longer beginners. They are beginning to individually mold, modify and improve their craft,” Butler said. “They both have shown significant improvement compared to the start of this year.”

Starting up their business this past February, both Feehan and O’Keefe are seeking out more businesses to collaborate with and bring attention to their work. 

“We’re hoping that if we post consistently on our Instagram [account], it will give our project more publicity,” O’Keefe said. “So far we have raised $190, and we’ve currently made 20 pieces to prepare for local shops and boutiques.”

 Through their work with their project, Feehan and O’Keefe feel that they have developed business skills they can use in the future.

 “I think this project has expanded our knowledge on running and starting our own business,” Feehan said. “[Our project] gives us a chance to make money professionally, in the real world.”

A graph showing the upwards trend line of the profits of Coastal Ceramics

Feehan and O’Keefe want to continue this project throughout high school and possibly bring their passions to the college they attend. They believe in each other and themselves and aim to continue helping more nonprofit organizations.

“We hope to have a steady business by the end of high school,” O’keefe said. “If we keep working at it, our hard work and continuation of the business will hopefully make us successful. If you believe in it, you can make a living out of your passion, and [we] are doing that.”