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Faces: Eileen Kulseth - Cottage Place Art School

Eileen Kulseth, of Crosslake, opened the Cottage Place Art School this summer. She offers a variety of art classes for all ages. Photo by Theresa Bourke

"As a senior in high school, I took one pottery class ... and I fell in love with it," Crosslake resident Eileen Kulseth said.

After 10 years of substitute teaching and more than 30 years of professionally creating and selling pottery, Kulseth made the choice to go back to school four years ago for her teaching license.

"The truth is that the Lord led me to go back to college," Kulseth said. "I subbed for 10 years. And then at that point I kept asking people, 'What is it that teachers know that I don't know?' Because I know they know something, like classroom management and how to teach so kids get it."

Kulseth chose Bethel University, formerly Bethel College, where she had originally obtained her Bachelor's degree. But the transition back to college life wasn't necessarily easy.

"I was very excited to be back in that setting because I loved that school and I loved that time of my life when I graduated from there," Kulseth said. "But my first professor said to me, 'Eileen, when you started, it looked like you were a deer in the headlights.' And I thought, 'Yeah.'"

Through hard work and a little help from above, Kulseth made it through college a second time.

"I focused really hard, and I actually ended up having a fantastic GPA," Kulseth said. "I couldn't have done that on my own. My whole life is so connected with God, and it was teamwork."

Her love of art and newfound commitment to teaching led Kulseth to create the Cottage Place Art School in Crosslake, where she offers art classes throughout the summer.

The art school, which began holding classes June 16, offers a variety of classes for various skill levels and ages. Classes include paper making, wheel throwing, pot glazing, printmaking and hand-building. Kulseth has also designed four-hour kids camps where first- through sixth-graders can learn about art and work on three different projects. Teen and adult level classes are also available.

Kulseth hopes these classes will help people to understand and appreciate art.

"I really do plan on sitting people down and not just giving them crafts to do, but I want to give them ideas and understanding of art," Kulseth said. "I want them to understand the process of creating art. Because then they can go home and apply it to decorating their house, to how they dress, what colors they wear. Just a lot of things are really integrated with art, and we don't really know it."

The Cottage Place Art School offers continuing education units for visual arts teachers.

Along with teaching, Kulseth and her husband, Tim, who works as a blacksmith and recently started a new business making fire pokers, plan to hold raku firing events throughout the summer. Raku firing is a unique form of pottery that uses a special kiln shaped like a garbage can and heated to 1,900 degrees. The kiln is lined with something combustible, such as newspaper or pine needles, and when a clay product is placed inside, the kiln is covered with a lid to reduce the amount of oxygen inside.

The result of the reduction is a fragile, black clay product that Kulseth describes as "earthy" and "primitive." She received a grant from the Five Wings Art Council, with funds provided by the McKnight Foundation, that she has used to buy a raku kiln, with which she will hold public events.

"We would like to do community invitations. Very randomly though. Because we won't know when we're firing until two days before," Kulseth said. "We're just going to put a sign down on the road and say 'raku firing, everybody welcome.'"

The class schedules are on Kulseth's website, www.cottageplacestudio.com, along with costs and more information. Kulseth encourages those who don't use the internet to stop by the school and look at the class schedule. The Cottage Place Art School is located at 32577 County Road 3 in Crosslake.

Pre-registration is available, as some of the classes have size restrictions, but those who decide to show up on the day of the class will be welcomed if there is space.

Kulseth, who is also a part-time art teacher at Lake Region Christian School in Baxter, plans to continue the Cottage Place Art School in future summers and hopes to spread the joy of art to her students.

"If they trust me and we can work together, they're going to love the process of creating," Kulseth said. "I just want them to enjoy creating."

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