Students find inner artist through ceramics program

Ceramics students can express themselves through working with clay. Kia Harlan

There is a common misconception among people: They wholeheartedly believe that they are not creative. This, of course, is inaccurate as what they are truly picking up on is their lack of skill to implement their creative aspirations.

The ceramics program at California Baptist University can grant an individual those necessary skills while fulfilling a general education requirement.

“Anybody can learn to work in clay and ceramics and most students here find it a very therapeutic experience,” said Amanda Santos, adjunct professor of ceramics. “We want to give students a chance to learn technique, but the creativity is all on them. We want to leave it as open as we can so they have the best experience.”

The one-on-one help that professors provide for students in developing their artistic style and ability is not unique to the ceramics program, but it is the fundamental key in all education that allows students to think critically and flourish as just when it seemed like the class was too good to be true, we can come to understand the spiritual and emotional benefits to the ceramic arts.

“Ceramics is the most revealing art form, especially throwing (a technique used to make clay mugs and pots that requires centering a lump of clay on a wheel),” said Sara George, ceramics teaching assistant and senior fine arts and art therapy major. “We always talk about if you are not centered, you are not going to be able to center.”

George expanded on the therapeutic nature of working with clay.

“We hold tension, we hold trauma, we hold everything in our physical bodies,” George said. “All that stress is directly translated into clay when you are working with it. The clay doesn’t lie. 

“The clay is going to tell you what is going on. It’s a great mirror for yourself to reflect when you are having those moments where you are just stuck on something or really frustrated step back and ask what’s going on with me.”

While the reason for the therapeutic nature of ceramics is hard to pin down, it is theorized that it is related to the fulfillment found in working with one’s hands.

“Most students just miss the feeling of being able to work with their hands and express really complicated emotions,” Santos said.

If the benefits of this class seem to come across as specific to only the “artists” and “creatives,” then consider the opinion of Baily Berzansky, freshmen accounting major and current ceramic student.

“I think it’s a nice stress relief, getting away from class and (not) worrying about all the work I have to do, just being able to focus on one thing,” Berzansky said.

While the class is intrinsically therapeutic and fun, it does require the student to complete work.

Some of the tasks students will be assigned include learning to throw (the process by which mugs and pots are made on a wheel), learning to handbill (the process by which a piece is made without the use of a wheel and relying on pinching and smoothing clay) and learning to glaze (the process by which a finished piece is covered in a thick sand based chemical mixture).

The student will additionally be pushed to develop their artistic process and exercise the full spectrum of their inner creativity through the media of ceramic art.

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