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Throwing Lessons: Beyond the Wheel with Molly Sanyour ’01

By Laura Hamlin Weiler ’00, Head of Community Engagement
A true lifelong learner, Trinity alum and ceramics teacher brings passion for creativity and globe-spanning experiences into the classroom
Part of Trinity’s philosophy is “integrating life into learning and learning into life.” Ceramics teacher Molly Sanyour ‘01 lives that philosophy every day in her work as a teacher as well as honing her craft as an artist.

Sanyour dabbled in art classes while at Trinity, however her passion was truly ignited almost by accident during her college years. A roommate was a photography major, and Sanyour observed the kind of work she was doing and was intrigued. She took a drawing fundamentals class for fun, then took several more as part of a minor that quickly turned into a major. It was during this time that she was introduced to ceramics, and a love affair began.

Sanyour earned her teaching degree simultaneously, and upon graduating from James Madison University, she began work at Glen Lea Elementary in Henrico County. She spent eight years there while always continuing her own art education with classes at the Visual Arts Center, VCU, and the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.

When she heard about an art teaching opening at Trinity, her sister Blair Sanyour Bowens ’97 encouraged her to apply. Coming back onto Trinity’s campus was like “rainbows and sunshine,” said Sanyour. She said, “It felt so good to be back,” and she was thrilled with the facilities and scope of the arts program.

In returning to Trinity as a teacher, Sanyour’s main goal was to impart to students that art “can be fun and serious simultaneously; it is not mutually exclusive. Art is fun, but it is more than that. Everyone has the same ability to be successful.” She seeks to make everyone feel confident as an artist and to help them to enjoy engaging with art.

What Sanyour did not anticipate in returning to Trinity was how much she would learn from her students. “I have grown so much because of them; they push me to explore.” In turn, she encourages the students to research and explore, and she supports them in that journey.

For Sanyour, there is a strong connection between teaching and inspiration, namely her own inspiration. “We are all inspired by something or someone, so the more we can share, the more inspiration can come,” says Sanyour. “You can learn something from someone else and then put your own spin on it.”

In Sanyour’s case, this extends far beyond the walls of the Perkinson Art Center. Sanyour’s reach has become global with her “Throwing with Molly” Instagram  show that airs live on Monday nights. Sanyour’s dream is to have her own crafts network complete with a television channel, so to start that process, she created her live show on Instagram. The show is interactive, as viewers can submit questions in real-time and Sanyour can answer them on the spot. Having her sister Blair in many episodes is an added bonus for Molly, plus it makes the show more accessible to beginners, as Blair had not thrown before appearing on the show.

As many as 5,000 people have watched in a 24-hour period. Afterward, Sanyour edits it down and post archives on her website.

In addition to reaching a worldwide audience, Sanyour’s Instagram show has connected her with artists across the globe. She traveled to Greece and Copenhagen to take classes with artists in those countries after meeting them through Instagram.

Additionally, when she offered classes this past summer, she had a mother and daughter duo from Guatemala come for almost two weeks to study with her. They now have their own kiln and wheel and are making their own ceramics.

Sanyour’s own work can be found online and at pop up events and art fairs around town. She has created a strong brand for herself through her website and online presence, and she teaches these branding skills to her Elements of Ceramics (intro) students when they learn to make their own website for her class. These branding and web-building skills can translate to any field, from academics to athletics to arts or music.

Sanyour’s passion is clear in all that she does, both on campus and off. Lifelong learning is a way of life for her, and through her teaching, it is a lesson for countless others as well.
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