Like many educators, Russ Richmond, an artist and teacher at South Medford High School, hopes he can influence his students positively and help them find their path in life. He knows it’s possible, because it happened for him.
Russ, the only son of educators, credits the influence of his parents Jim and Lois, also artists, for his skill and passion for teaching. Growing up in a household that encouraged imagination and creativity, Russ jumped at the chance to try something new when he started high school.
“I was a high school freshman in San Diego, and one of my electives was ceramics. Once I started, I was hooked,” says the veteran teacher. Russ also credits his ceramics teacher, Mr. Sanders, for creating an environment that helped him learn how to problem solve and create freely, and ultimately, influenced his own teaching style.
“You can search throwing demos on YouTube and see 20 different people throw 20 different ways. There is no one right way,” Russ says. “Just like Mr. Sanders, I show my students the basics, and then encourage them to experiment and figure out what works for them. Questions are encouraged, but I always put it back on my students to find the answers.”
His method is certainly working, because his high school classes are constantly full. He teaches 180 kids per semester in the school year. The chance to influence 360 kids every year keeps him on his toes.
“I love the challenge. Of course I hope my students leave my class and continue on to create great art, but at least I know they’re walking away having developed personally and artistically just by being in my class and having the space to explore.”
Russ has done his fair share of exploring. Richmond Ceramics has developed a strong reputation in the Rogue Valley. He spends hours in his tiny home studio creating new pottery that makes its way into homes throughout Southern Oregon and beyond. Russ’s wares are for sale in local small businesses, such as Bestow & Bloom in Ashland and Cerberus Coffee in Jacksonville. He also participates in local holiday shows, such as Clayfolk and the annual Holiday Bazaar at New Life Church in Medford. Occasionally, clients commission unique pieces for special events.
“We definitely have a distinct style around here. Local shows are great for me,” says Russ. “I don’t have to mail anything. I get to just set it up and then hang out with people. There’s something really cool about seeing the same customers year after year, who come back and buy my stuff.”
Regardless of the season, when Russ isn’t mountain biking, teaching, or hanging out with his family, you can find him in his 150 sq. ft. studio, coming up with new designs. Russ’s kids, Ella and Tommy, and his wife, educator and author Tisha Richmond, are his biggest fans.
“Tish and the kids have always supported my work and encourage me in my business,” says the artist. With one look at his work it’s easy to see why Russ’s business is thriving.
“I’m obsessed,” says long-time customer and friend Shawna Allen. “I have cupboards full of his creations. I give them as gifts to my friends every year. There’s just something about sipping coffee from a handcrafted piece of art. It makes the experience that much sweeter.”
To find Russ, check out his Instagram page @richmond_ceramics. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.