Aqua Frigidior Disputatio 2021 Black by James G.
James G. ’23 discovered his love of pottery through mentorship and opportunities at Poly. He recently won a Catalyst Conference Award from the Global Online Academy (GOA) for public engagement with his community pottery center project, as well as a Citation Award. One of his vases was also selected for a National Exhibition of High School Artists at the American Museum of Ceramic Arts (AMOCA). Read on to learn more about his craft and his future plans with pottery.
How did you get into ceramics? I have been at Poly since kindergarten. Our primary school art teacher, Mrs. Marrs, taught us about hand building with clay. This is where my love for pottery began.
We learned the process from play to creation and art. After learning from Mrs. Marrs, I took a pottery class at PolySummer with Mr. Freed, and he taught me the basics of pottery, including wheel throwing techniques. I took it for two summers and then took classes with Mrs. Raftery in middle school and high school and she really developed and supported my interest in pottery. I also take classes outside of Poly at a local studio in Sierra Madre.
When the pandemic hit last spring, the studio closed and I asked Mrs. Raftery if I could do some hand building in my house in addition to the carpentry course I was taking with her. Mrs. Raftery was so supportive; she had clay and tools delivered to my house and we had zoom calls about the pieces I was working on. She gave me ideas for projects and I continued to progress. My uncle got an old kiln from a friend who wasn’t using it, and we installed it last summer and I started baking and enameling parts at home. Throughout this pandemic Mrs. Raftery and Poly have been very supportive, dropping off clay and tools and really encouraging me.
Can you tell us more about the American Museum of Ceramic Arts (AMOCA) internship? Last year, while we were homeschooling, I discovered Teen Council, an internship program with AMOCA in Pomona. With the support of Poly and Mrs. Raftery encouraging me to pursue my interest in art, I applied and was accepted. We meet weekly to learn from professional artists, and also how to teach ceramics to other children and create educational programs and exhibits at the museum. Right now we are doing a project where we are making parts that we will sell to AMOCA.
How would you describe your artistic style? At the moment, I mostly do wheel throwing. I like to make vases and use the wheel to contort the shape of my pieces, like making gourds (that’s what the piece that was accepted for the National Exhibition was, a double gourd). I like to make vases with unusual shapes, like bottle neck vases, because these are technically more difficult to make. I also love vibrant purples, greens and glazes that break and flow, especially when layered.
I’m currently experimenting with making larger pieces, as it’s hard to cast big with a lot of clay. What I love about wheel throwing and pottery making is that even if you mess up, you can always recycle the clay and start over, or change the shape of what you throw if it’s collapses or sags in some way. It’s always something different and a new technique. It is a constantly evolving practice.
Can you describe your Global Online Academy (GOA) project? I love pottery and I really love designing things. I used to play a lot with Legos when I was a kid and always loved the design projects at Poly. The GOA Architecture program is a more scholarly view of design and engineering. I wanted to connect my love of pottery, so I designed a sustainable pottery studio for everyone in the community, especially those in schools with underfunded art programs. I was inspired by the Poly studio because it’s really cool, and high school kids especially enjoy it. I want others to experience it and share it with the Pasadena community.
I modeled the structure from a potter’s wheel. The wheel is the central area and the workbench or seat is where the desk would be. I linked durability too. My design included using 3D printers using biodegradable clay to make the structures. I also used a lot of glass so people could be immersed in nature outside of the studio while they were making pottery.
What are your goals with pottery? With pottery, I want to develop my skills and submit to different exhibitions and maybe explore ceramics in college. I would also like to start an organization where we can sell pots and other ceramic art that we make and donate the proceeds to charity. Last year the studio I go to held an art sale where artists could sell their work and I was able to sell a lot of my art and donate all the money I raised to the Pasadena Unified School District program for families of homeless children. I would like to do something like this on a larger scale, and have my art serve a purpose other than the pleasure I have in making and displaying my pottery. I also spoke to Ms. Raftery about starting a ceramics club at Poly when we return to campus next year.
This article was originally published on Polytechnic.org on 05/17/2021.
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