Taking his first formal ceramics class as a student at Andover, Samuel Zaeder ’83 later returned to the institution to become a ceramics teacher. Currently completing his final year as the chair of the Art Department, he also teaches two courses, Art 302 and Art 502. Having had years of experience with ceramics, his work with clay focuses on manipulating shapes in relation to space.
“As a vessel maker, I’m interested in creating work that has presence. Vessels are about containment and space, shape, and form. I’m repeatedly drawn to investigating that relationship…in search of something that conveys the universal, the elemental,” said Zaeder.
Zaeder has helped countless students develop a love for the art form. Jacob Keller ’24 reflected on how taking Zaeder’s ceramics class has changed the way he views and thinks about art in his daily life, as well as deepened his understanding of pottery.
“I haven’t taken an art class in two years, and I like art, but nothing has really stuck in the way this has. I find myself outside of class thinking about ceramics and what I want to make… Also just walking around and admiring other peoples’ art. I never really had that connection or understanding. Like I’d see a pot and be like ‘oh, it’s a pot’ but now I look at it and I’m like ‘oh, I can make that’ or ‘oh, that’s insanely impressive,’” said Keller.
For his teaching methods, Zaeder draws upon not only his experience as a student but also his role as a house counselor. Seeing the struggles of the students in the dorm has helped him to empathize and approach his curriculum differently.
“What affected my teaching the most was not having been a student here in the ’80s as much as when I became a House Counselor and got to see firsthand all the many commitments and demands that [Andover] students are under. I definitely eased up on my students once I became a House Counselor… My curriculum has evolved from being overblown and overreaching to pared down and better aligned with what students can handle as they embark on learning a new discipline, process, and material,” said Zaeder.
Karla Aouga ’24 remarks on Zaeder’s compassion for his students, noting how he provides them with independence, but also guidance when needed. This teaching style gives students creative freedom and direction over their own pieces, but also ensures that the class stays on track. His enthusiasm as a teacher also inspires his students to invest in their artwork.
“He teaches in a way where he shows how passionate he is about the subject and makes the students feel passionate about the subject as well and gives them a lot of choice in what they make and allows the students to explore their creativity,” said Aouga.
In addition to his teaching position, Zaeder also coaches Spin in Winter Term and varsity cycling during Spring Term. For Elliot Famiglietti ’25, a member of the cycling team, Zaeder’s mentorship extends beyond just the ceramics studio.
“The best thing about him is how experienced he is in everything that he does. For instance, in cycling, he’s always relaxed and knows what to do. Especially when we’re in groups, and we’re on public roads, he’ll always stop, assess the situation, and help in the best way he thinks. I would say that’s the best part about him and is honestly very inspiring,” said Famiglietti.
Over his 25-plus years in the classroom, Zaeder has also achieved personal growth through the art of ceramics, adapting his artistic style over time and learning about his identity through the journey. In the future, Zaeder hopes to continue the art form even after his teaching career ends.
“I’ve also grown in my understanding of the connection between the self and our lived experience and how that informs what we make as artists… Life is full of a litany of small and sometimes larger obstacles and challenges for everyone… Learning to be comfortable with my own narrative and with my place at this school took time and was something I had to work at… My hope is to be able to continue to work with ceramics as long as I’m able. I have lots of ideas and goals for my own studio practice once I step away from teaching,” said Zaeder.