Jean Taylor — a ceramics teacher at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge who's shaped and molded clay novices into artists throughout her 52-year tenure — has left the building.
On Saturday, the local institution celebrated half a century of teaching at the center's ceramics studio she lovingly built from the ground up upon her arrival at what was then known as the La Cañada Youth House in 1966. Taylor, 90, will no longer formally teach classes in the program she helped guide.
But thanks to the love and appreciation of community center staff and a faithful following of former students and devotees, a part of Taylor will remain in perpetuity. At the small ceremony, it was announced the ceramics studio would be officially named the Helen Jean Taylor Ceramics Studio.
In an unveiling ceremony, a crowd watched Taylor's reaction as a special ceramic installation placed above the entryway to the studio and a sign bearing her name came into view.
"I am still in shock!" Taylor wrote in an email the following day to CCLCF Executive Director Maureen Bond. "I had a great time and will be mulling it over for a long time to come. There was so much love."
The momentous event was preceded by a portion of a documentary created to capture Taylor's many important contributions to the center and the love of her craft.
"Jean has touched the life of every student who came through these doors to learn, and they have passed their own knowledge to their friends and families for over 50 years," Bond said in the tribute. "She has been a teacher, a mentor, a storyteller and an art therapist to so many."
In the video, Taylor explained the inherent power of ceramics to unleash students' creativity.
"It opens up their mind to the possibility of what can be done," she said. "Clay is a plastic medium — you can take it wherever you want. It has life of its own and that, to me, is fascinating."