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New Haven teacher blends passions for art and education

Monday, October 22, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:54 a.m. CDT, Monday, October 22, 2012
Angie Schlotzhauer makes jewelry in her home studio and sells most of them to Poppy Arts Fine Craft Gallery in downtown Columbia.

COLUMBIA — “Mrs. Slosh-tower”?

A third-grader is seeking help from his teacher, Angie Schlotzhauer, but he can't pronounce her name properly.

He points to his clay pot:  “Mine doesn’t look like yours."

The art teacher at New Haven Elementary School said her students often have trouble with her last name.

She came up with a mneumonic device to help them learn — she writes “Shh-lots-how-errrrr” on the board.

But it doesn't always work.

"After two weeks, they forget and are back to calling me Mrs. Slosh-tower,” she said with a grin.

Schlotzhauer is responsible for bringing art to students at New Haven from kindergarten to fifth grade.

But when she became a teacher, she didn't want to stop being an artist. So, she also makes ceramic jewelry, which she sells downtown at Poppy and online through her shop, L E Goods, on Etsy.com.

“When people find out I’m an art teacher, they don’t know how much of an artist I really am,” she said. 

The name of her online business is the phonetic spelling of her maiden name, Ellegood. It is a tribute to her father, a carpenter and draftsman from whom she believes she got her artistic talents.

“He mingled artistic talent in my DNA,” Schlotzhauer said. “He is a carpenter so he works with his hands and builds things. He also has experience drafting, so he can look at anything and draw it.”

She makes her distinctive necklaces, earrings and magnets in her home-based studio. Her jewelry often has nature-inspired themes and stained-glass looks. MU-themed items such as pendants and magnets are top sellers.

Schlotzhauer describes her jewelry as bright, colorful and cheerful — the result of teaching children, she explained. She takes her passion for ceramics into the classroom by teaching kids how to make pinch pots and clay ornaments.

“Every student has a clay project to take home for the holidays,” she said. “A lot of students might not have the opportunity to get the parents a present. All children are little artists.”

She finds that many children thrive in art class because of its low-key, comfortable setting. Art is the class where students can talk the entire period, she said.

“The same fourth grader who reads at a first-grade level and may have behavioral problems is super-focused and successful in my class,” she said.

Schlotzhauer said she teaches her students to think creatively and encourages individuality.

“I want my students to love making things and to be curious. If I wasn’t curious, I never would have thought to make jewelry out of clay,”she said.

This isn't to say there aren't challenges in the classroom. 

“Behavior management can be tough. I often joke that teaching art is mostly behavior management with a little art. I find keeping them busy and entertained works so they don’t get distracted. But if they aren’t having fun, I’m not doing my job right.”

Schlotzhauer earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from MU, after changing her major five times.

“I tried for dependable and ended up back in art,” she said. She returned to MU later to earn her master’s degree in education.

Art was also a source of self-esteem for Schlotzhauer when she was growing up.

"I wasn’t good at sports in school, never first picked for P.E. or even 10th," she said. "But in art class, people wanted to sit next to me, and I felt important."

During college, Schlotzhauer had a job at Poppy, a craft gallery downtown. She said it gave her a feel for what kind of art sells and how the business works.

Poppy's manager, Liz Tucker, recalled Schlotzhauer’s early days there.

“When she worked here in 2006, she wasn’t making her jewelry yet," she said. "When she did start making it we had to convince her to let us sell it. She is very humble.”

Schlotzhauer said she wants to give back a sense of belonging to her students. 

"To be successful in my field, you have to come up with something different. Find a niche and something different about your product,” she said.

“I found that you can actually make a living doing art.”

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.


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