Back To School : SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : It’s Never Too Late to Be Creative

Norman Ferguson called it his wife’s inspiration. For Dorothy Smith, it was a tennis injury. And Martha Seabol just happened to be driving by.

No matter how the three South County residents landed in Jean Lorenz’s ceramics and doll-making class in the old Capistrano High School this summer, they each wound up proudly showing off their accomplishments.

After 15 years of teaching art at the school’s Adult Education Center, Lorenz, 71, is accustomed to watching her students produce.

” . . . I believe I can teach anyone,” said Lorenz, a Mission Viejo resident. “One of the fun things about this is that I’ve helped all types of people. I helped one person with such terrible arthritis that she didn’t think she could hold a brush. Now, her paintings are hanging on her children’s walls.”


Next week, the adult school center here opens for the fall semester. Along with 21 English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, about 30 other classes will be offered in business education, English, foreign languages, home economics and photography, among others.

Adult schools are gaining in popularity in the area, with about 3,800 students a year now attending the programs, according to Keith Stroud, the school’s principal. Along with the old high school, the adult program uses churches, conference rooms and schoolrooms throughout the South County for its day, afternoon and night classes, he said.

“We are getting more and more students every year,” Stroud said. “Our major thrust for many years was offering classes towards a high school diploma. That is still our largest part, along with the ESL classes, whose attendance has ballooned recently.”

Another popular program is the parent/child participation class, in which parents attend with children from 12 months to 4 years old, Stroud said. The children learn motor development and social skills, while the parents learn parenting practices and how to identify symptoms of childhood frailties, Stroud said.


Lorenz’s classes are consistently popular, and this summer drew a wide variety of students ranging in age from 17 to 71. Most of them were interested in ceramics and doll-making, and none left empty-handed.

Ferguson, a retired teacher from San Clemente, finished with a set of hand-painted stoneware. The colorful grapes, apples and pears sprawled along the edges of a table-setting for eight were just what his wife had ordered.

“My wife wanted a set with fruit on it,” Ferguson said. “I traced them on . . . carbon paper and then painted them on the stoneware.”

A foot injury caused Smith, 66, a San Juan Capistrano resident, to seek a new outlet. She decided to go back to school and learn to make dolls.


“I went from tennis to doll-making,” Smith said. “I saw a doll in a friend’s house, and she told me her son had made it. Then I saw a brochure and came and signed up. Now my granddaughter’s taking the class with me.”

Seabol was driving by the center and saw a group of cars. She stopped, got out and now is one of Lorenz’s daily students.

“This is my third year,” said Seabol, 69, of San Clemente. “Doll-making is a wonderful hobby for senior citizens. You can pass them on to your grandchildren.”

Lorenz says her techniques have two major guidelines.


“First, you have to come. I can’t help anyone who doesn’t show up,” she said. “And then I let them do what they want to do, not what I want them to do. I just help them.”