A dozen student potters lean over a dozen formless piles of spinning clay. The day-lit ceramics studio is suffused with the hum of motorized potter’s wheels interrupted by words of encouragement and occasionally frustrated sighs. In the yearlong Studio Pottery class led by Shannon Harris, student artists work exclusively on the potter’s wheel. Introduction to Ceramics or 3D Design are prerequisites so students come to the studio with significant experience in pinch, slab, and hand-building techniques of working with clay. Of the potter’s wheel, Ms. Harris says: “It takes time and practice to get comfortable with this machine and to learn all the amazing things we can create with it!”
In the first weeks of class, students take time to become comfortable with the wheels and to understand and manage the properties of the stoneware clay they use. Early projects include bowls, plates, and other functional vessels like mugs and lidded forms. The progress from rudimentary to more complex works happens as students are “learning ways to find harmony with their bodies, the machine, and the clay,” says Ms. Harris.
The student artists build their skills with stoneware clay, mindful of the final project of the year, the creation of a tea set that demonstrates their expertise in the techniques they have learned during the class. In the second semester, students can use porcelain for their work, which requires more careful handling and finishing. Though their approaches to the work vary, all of the students in Studio Pottery love to get their hands dirty!