by Alessandra Selgi-Harrigan Aug 24, 2014
Imperial Beach News
There is a place on Elmer Avenue where budding artists can experiment with their craft. From drawing and painting to working with clay
there is a variety of choices.
Co-owners and husband and wife team Jeff Kirkeeng and Elisabeth Shapiro opened Art Wheel School & Studio four years ago.
Over the years the couple has welcomed many students of all ages including children from charter schools. Many of the customers
at the studio come from as far Sorrento Valley and Encinitas.
The studio is a full clay facility located near the pier with indoor and outdoor working spaces. It also has nine wheels that customers
can use to throw pots and a kiln. In the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere would-be artists can explore their creativity under the watchful eye of Kirkeeng.
Kirkeeng and Shapiro have lived in IB for 19 years. They met in Shanghai, China and moved to IB in ’94 after living in downtown San Diego.
Kirkeeng received most of his formal art training in high school and he graduated from Brown University with a liberal arts degree in
East Asian Studies. But his love for art always took over. “I somehow ended up always doing art, painting, drawing and ceramics,” he explained.
In the indoor art studio Kirkeeng proudly displays a ceramic relief he created retelling the tale of Red Riding Hood from the point of
view of the wolf. This piece was displayed at Terminal 2 at the San Diego Airport as a part of “Myth of the West,” an exhibition of
various artists about western culture. “Usually the victor writes the story [but not in this case.] It was an idea I had been working
on for a while. It took eight months to finish,” he said.
Kirkeeng does commission work and he is currently creating a garden wall piece for a home in Coronado. He also does design work
and recently he collaborated with a cabinet maker to create a jewelry case for a boutique.
“When people think of clay they think of pots,” he said pointing out that there is a lot more that can be done with clay. At the studio,
students can create what they envision. For example, Kirkeeng is currently working with a student who studied pottery in Italy.
She copied a fresco and made a bas relief in 3D of a bird on a branch.
Kirkeeng showed student-made pieces which range from fruit baskets to serving platters, bowls and planters.
“Most people like to make something of their own, but when I teach a group of kids I try to get them all to do one thing,” he explained.
Kirkeeng teaches his students the three basic techniques for hand building with clay: pinch, coil and slab methods.
Kirkeeng also teaches painting and he lets his students paint on different mediums including canvas, panels and clay.
His classes are not necessarily structured. “I don’t tell people how to be creative. I provide technical information,
teach drawing and find out their interest,” he said.
If customers just want to go to the studio to paint, they can choose from a variety of bisque pieces that are ready on the shelves.
Kirkeeng also sells planters that can be hung on garden walls or fence. Customers can choose to paint them or buy them already
painted with a variety of plants inside.
Apart from regular classes, the studio hosts groups, birthday parties and offers private lessons.