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SUPERMUD MEMBER PROFILES
Christina Bingel - Instructor
For this Supermud Member Profiles, Scottie Twine spoke to Christina Bingel, who teaches the children's program at Supermud.
One simple observation can change the course of your life. For Christina (Tina) Bingel this happened during her parents’ visit in 1999. Walking around the neighborhood, they’d seen a sign for Supermud Pottery and said to her: “Well, you’re looking for something to do, you like the arts, and it’s close by.” She decided to give it a try. In January 2000 Tina walked into Supermud Pottery for her first class and has never left. She didn’t know it at the time but it was to be more than just the first step in becoming a potter - it introduced her to teaching children while using clay as part of the process, and thus defined her future professional life.
Carmen Soriano was Tina’s first teacher. She required all her students to spend time hand-building in order to familiarize themselves with clay and to truly understand what their hands could do with its unlimited possibilities. Tina was immediately smitten with the medium. Then, when she was finally introduced to the wheel, she knew that was how she wanted to work. In subsequent classes with Iva, Beverly, and Eric she learned something special and different from each of them. Tina refers to those early years of Supermud classes as “some of the best ever” and relished the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the studio.
Tina’s work has evolved over the years. Ultimately, it’s been about making bowls: big, small, light, heavy, carved, even upside down bowls! Why bowls? Her dad was her inspiration: A skilled woodworker, he turned countless wooden bowls for fun. Tina discovered that her favorite type of bowl is the one “that fits snugly in my hand, with a pop of color on the inside and the outside left pristine.” She’s always liked bright colors and cheerful tones and you can see this in her delicate 4” porcelain bowls with colors popping on their interiors that she now sells at Book Culture, Supermud, and from her Etsy shop Ceramics by Christina.
Early on Iva invited her to help with the children’s program at Supermud. Tina loved it from her very first class. “Kids are so fun, eager, and open. They come up with interesting ideas with no constraints. We laugh all the time!” She quickly observed how time spent working with clay transformed her students: they’d arrive tired and grumpy after a long day of school but leave happy and relaxed.
When asked how she eventually became a full-time pre-school teacher, Tina said, “It all goes back to Iva! She taught me the love of clay, not only for myself but, most importantly, how to share it with others.” She combined her two loves – clay and working with children – and went back to school and earned her Masters of Science in Education in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in May 2010.
Her Master’s thesis, aptly titled, “Children, Clay, and Conversation,” focused on the importance of the role of clay in young children’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development. As a pre-school teacher she has single-handedly created (and continues to implement) a clay curriculum to compliment her early childhood curriculum. Tina says the emphasis is on exploration and not a final product. She believes clay should be used as an open-ended material providing endless opportunities for problem solving and imaginative thinking.
Acknowledging her contribution to pre-school curricula, the 92nd Street Y invited Tina to present her ideas on early childhood education to other national and international educators at their annual Wonderplay Early Childhood Conference. She first presented “Clay as a Vehicle for Self-Expression” in 2009 and then presented “Clay and Little Hands: Introducing Clay to Early Childhood Classrooms” in 2011-2014.
At Supermud, Tina’s students are between the ages of 4 and 14. Here the emphasis is more on the art of ceramics and specific techniques for creating in clay. Many of her students have been with her for years. Tina is always acting on her strong belief in the importance of communication and community. That she succeeds at this is immediately apparent in the smiles on her students’ faces as they arrive for class, ready to spend hours having fun with a teacher they love – and who loves them!