Grooving to their inner artist - Kitsap teens in recovery services showcase their artistic skills

Pottery-work of teenagers in the Kitsap Adolescent Recovery Services is on display at Old Town Custom Framing and Gallery through the end of the month.  - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Pottery-work of teenagers in the Kitsap Adolescent Recovery Services is on display at Old Town Custom Framing and Gallery through the end of the month.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

She was tired of being in trouble. She was tired of losing her family’s trust. But most of all, she was tired of disappointing herself.

“It takes a lot of time to actually realize that you have to make life changes,” Jayme, 17, of Bremerton said. “If you actually want to be sober, you have to work for it.”

Although it was not easy, she worked for it and has been sober for seven months. She started using drugs when she was 13 and then found herself growing increasingly dependent on prescription drugs.

Jayme is one of 60 teenagers who are part of Kitsap Adolescent Recovery Services, an outpatient treatment program within the Kitsap County Juvenile Drug Court, which works with 13 to 18-year-olds who have entered the criminal justice system to avoid harsh penalties in lieu of treatment.

To keep the teens active and to show them ways to express themselves without drugs and alcohol, Old Town Custom Framing and Gallery in Silverdale is hosting a show of pottery and artwork by the youth through the end of the month.

An open house for the “Groovy Juvie Show” is scheduled for April 16 and the teenagers’ art pieces will be for sale, with proceeds donated toward the department’s youth fund.

In conjunction with juvenile drug court, Jayme is enrolled in the recovery services program — she started in July — and is on track to complete the program in May. Donna Vaquer, a ceramics artist based in Port Orchard, works with the teenagers on ceramics projects once a month. Jayme said it is her favorite activity of the program as it gave her a way to rediscover her creative side.

“Before I used, I liked to draw — all of that went out the window,” she said.

Not only has Jayme found enjoyment in creative work such as art, she’s rebuilt her life. She said she has been offered a scholarship to play soccer at the community college level.

The recovery services program has three sites in the county including Bremerton, Poulsbo and Port Orchard. Most of the 60 youth in the program come from the juvenile drug court, said Denise McGaughey, program supervisor, adding that many are in drug court to keep their drivers license or to keep a felony charge off record. The drug court program is one year and the recovery services program length varies on the case but teenagers can continue as long as eight months.

“Some of them are pretty resistant. They don’t see much value in doing it,” McGaughey said of the adolescents’ attitude on ceramics, and being in the program in general.

Vaquer, who owns Salamander Pottery with her husband creating teapots and home decor ceramics, said that working with clay for the teenagers is just one way to help them engage in clean and sober activities.

“They brag about it. You can tell they are proud about what they have accomplished,” Vaquer said.

Recently, Johnny Lee Baker, 17, created a mask that resembles a tiger in one of Vaquer’s classes. The East Bremerton teenager was suspended from school about a month ago when school authorities found synthetic cannabis in his wallet. He said he hadn’t been using it that often, but added that he started smoking marijuana when he was about 14 years old.

Now he realizes that life can be better without drug use.

“I don’t feel as down anymore. I’m always in a better mood and not as tired,” Baker said.

Baker plans on enlisting in the Army when he gets off of probation to follow his older brother’s footsteps” who is currently serving in Afghanistan. He said he has realized that using drugs is not worth the money and trouble, and that if he had made better choices to begin with, he could have enlisted by now.

No two pieces of pottery at the show are the same, just as none of the teenagers’ stories are, Vaquer said. But most share the same attitude of wanting to change. Both Baker and Jayme said they have new friends.

For Jayme, she found the strength in herself for making that change.

“It was just me realizing that I can do it, and having faith in myself,” she said. “And I know I have people here who are actually here to help me.”

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