Ceramics Class – The McKendree Review
By Nat Wilk, Editor
Photos taken by Kenneth Glidden, collated by Nat Wilk
McKendree University offers all kinds of creative courses for arts students. From cinema and photography to drawing and sculpture, the art program covers a wide range of skills in the artistic field. Considering all the fantastic art classes offered here, I thought it would be fascinating to get an inside look at a class I had never heard of: ceramics.
Camryn Anderson and the Elders Reviewby Kenneth Glidden (Kenny) are two students taking ceramics classes. I asked them about the project they did that they are most proud of. “I’m very proud of the Jomon I’ve created,” says Camryn. “I’m also very proud of the flower pots I’ve created.” Jomon pottery is a type of pottery from the Japanese Neolithic period, characterized by its “cord marks” present on the ceramics (1). The practice of ancient pottery types is just one of the many aspects of the art at McKendree.
“So far in the class we’ve made pinch jars, slab-shaped cups with handles, and we’re currently working on a big spool project,” says Kenny. “The one I’m most proud of is a pinch jar I made that has a dirt-like texture on the outside with a worm inside the cup poking its head out.”
While pinch pots are formed using a lob of clay and using your fingers to pinch and shape (2), slab cups are made using slab construction, which is “a building technique in which clay is rolled into thin sheets and manipulated into shapes” (3).
As for the coil project mentioned by Kenny, it refers to pottery made with scrolls of clay resembling snakes – for example, to make a coil pot, one would layer scrolls on the main walls of the pot to extend its shape and manipulate its shape (4). The range of techniques in these two students’ responses really portrays the range of skills they are learning to practice in the ceramics class.
Due to the variety of skills and projects in the ceramics class, some types of pottery are more difficult than others. “The hardest thing for me was the slab cuts,” Kenny said. “The slab technique used to flatten the clay is a bit tricky, then joining the ends to make a cylinder is a tricky process.”
Camryn states that she had trouble creating throwing mugs on the potter’s wheel. “Learning to throw cups is difficult because you have a natural tendency to want to go out with the clay, but you have to stay inside for the cups.”
Throwing is a method in which the artist throws wet clay onto the potter’s wheel and, as the wheel spins, the artist must form the shape from the inside bottom of the container using a series of slow techniques and meticulous (5). Most of us have probably seen this method used on TV and in movies – it makes it look a lot easier than it looks!
With the variety of projects offered by ceramics classes, there is something for everyone; including how fun it looks to create your own masterpieces. “What I like best about ceramics is being able to work with clay. It’s a wonderful stress reliever and it’s nice to see your creations come to life,” says Camryn. Art means something different to everyone, but in addition to the technique and work involved, you should have fun!
Kenny comments on his favorite part of the class: “The freedom of the teacher [Andrew Koester] gives us – it gives us a demonstration of how to do the task we are working on and some basic parameters (height and diameter) and then lets us get to work. He continued, “We can use our own creativity and work at our own pace.”
Ceramics is just one of many art courses offered by McKendree – if you’re interested in ceramics or another art course, give it a try! You will come away with a better understanding of the arts and appreciate the many techniques and mediums you can work with. There is no limit to your imagination!