New faces in the ceramics department offer a fresh look at craftsmanship – The Channels

Lawrence of August

Nursing student Sage Heidkamp carves the top of her newest sculpture Wednesday, March 2, at City College’s art department in Santa Barbara, Calif. City College’s ceramics department emphasizes encouraging student creativity and seeks to inspire.

The new leadership has helped City College art students find new ways to get their hands dirty in creating their masterpieces.

The ceramics department recruited new instructors during the pandemic who used a variety of different methods and techniques, encouraging students to dive deep into their creativity.

After COVID-19 caused classes to be moved online, ceramics classes returned in-person in the fall semester.

“Ceramics is a real hands-on material, there are programs online, but it’s really hard to do it online,” said ceramics instructor Armando Ramos. “It’s a community based thing, you share space and equipment while learning from each other.”

Ramos joined the ceramics department last year, but he feels the department is very well managed and has a strong team.

“[The studio] has been well maintained and run for years, it has been to my advantage to take it over. It can be difficult to find good part-time instructors, but I think we found them,” Ramos said. “We were really lucky.”

The former head of the ceramics department, Christopher Bates, was known to teach in a more traditional style. Under Ramos, the new instructors have brought more freedom and creativity to the course schedule.

The student artist's pieces cool inside an oven after the firing process Wednesday, March 2, at City College's art department in Santa Barbara, Calif.  During the pandemic, City College has hired sculpture teachers and experimented with implementing new teaching methods.
The student artist’s pieces cool inside an oven after the firing process Wednesday, March 2, at City College’s art department in Santa Barbara, Calif. During the pandemic, City College has hired sculpture teachers and experimented with implementing new teaching methods. (August Lawrence)

“Students can come to class and say ‘this is what I want to do,'” ceramics tutor Ally James said. “The teacher will help you achieve that personal goal, and I don’t think that’s always been the case.”

While ceramics classes used to be taught strictly following the basics, now students can learn to create the things they want and need.

“In the past, there were a few homeless students who took classes with [Ramos] and they wanted to do things like build a sink on their van,” James said. “He was really open to helping them achieve whatever they wanted to do.”

The students enjoyed ceramics with Ramos so much that they were excited to return for more classes. They often start with the basics of ceramics (Art 150), then move on to intermediate or advanced ceramics (Art 151 and Art 152).

“I have a teacher who encourages you while letting you do your own thing, which is a style of teaching that I really enjoy,” said advanced ceramics student Maurice Green.

“You need the basic education to know what you’re doing, but [Ramos] actually lets you go out and do it.

There are also students who are completely new to ceramics, who have been able to catch up easily with the City College curriculum and are enjoying the steps along the way.

“For our first project, we were making animals, and seeing it go from a pile of clay to an animal was so crazy,” said Sage Heidkamp, ​​a beginning ceramics student. “I really like that.”

Since the pandemic, the department has been using digital cameras and gates, which has made things a little smoother compared to before COVID-19.

“There’s a lot more two-way communication through [digital portals] because students are used to it now,” the instructor said. “They go to class but the material is also reflected on Canvas which I think supports their learning.”

Everyone involved in City College’s ceramics department is happy to be back in person at the studio, sharing their knowledge and ideas, working on everyone’s creativity, and creating things that interest them.

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