Fall 2009

WITH OVER 150 STUDENTS every semester, ceramics is one of the biggest programs in the Art Department, and the ceramics lab is its central hub. It has special rooms for kilns and glazing, throwing and hand-building areas, and an outdoor kiln for raku firings. The building once housed the University washing facility, and some students still call the lab “the Laundry.” During a recent 8 a.m. class, music blared from an iPod hooked up to a clay-covered boom box. One popular choice: vintage Rolling Stones.

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  1. Electric throwing wheels are easier to use than kickwheels when creating large pieces – the weight of the clay requires lots of leg power to keep the wheel moving. Flip-flops add an extra challenge.
  2. Glazes can be applied in different ways: dipping (the most common), painting or spraying. The finished piece will be “tomato-iron red,” not this Pepto-Bismol hue.
  3. Test tiles show what each glaze will look like once fired. Some of the glaze names are “flaming red,” "mirror black," and "sea anemone" - otherwise known as blue-green.
  4. Clay must be wedged (kneaded) to rid it of air pockets before it is ready to be shaped. Otherwise, bubbles can make the clay explode in the kiln. And no one wants to clean that up.
  5. Ceramics honors students can stay all night at the studio – and some actually do. Here, Avery Palmer paints underglaze on one of his honors pieces. He is currently applying to graduate programs in ceramics.
  6. Outrageous ceramic pieces cover almost every surface in the lab - even the microwave.
  7. High-fire kilns require special clays and glazes to withstand the heat. A special room houses these gas-fired kilns - which is good, since flames shoot out the top when it is firing.
  8. Students listen to Professor Keith Schneider with as much rapt attention as they can muster at 8 a.m. To help with that, many students drink a prodigious amount of coffee, most of it in earthy, handmade mugs.
  9. One assignment: create a teapot. The end results range from traditional to wildly fanciful - think heads of lettuce and flying pigs. The best are exhibited each year in HSU's annual Teapot Show.