2010-11 OFA Flashback: Informing function

by Ceramics

Creative exploration and finding new methods of research have always been priorities of the Ceramics Program’s ongoing interaction with our Harvard College undergraduates. Our events of 2010-2011 were no exception!

This past September and February, arriving on shuttle buses from Harvard Square, excited undergraduates traded in their jackets for aprons during the ever popular student-run event Clay All Night. Undergraduate volunteers assisted those new to the potter’s wheel or hand-building during this fun-filled evening of food, music and art making.

In November, the Ceramics Program hosted the Anthropology 1010: Introduction to Archeology Lab, featuring five different educational stations intended to aid in the interpretation of artifacts. Each station provided hands-on experience in traditional clay forming and surface techniques to over 130 undergraduates. Students worked with our instructors to identify clay bodies, try the potter’s wheel, and learn coil-building and traditional surface decoration. Special guests, Harvard College’s Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds and Associate Dean Paul J. McLoughlin, stopped by to observe the lab.

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This past winter’s heavy snowfall didn’t slow us down as we welcomed undergraduates for the January Arts Intensive course, From Mud to Mugs taught by instructor Wayne Fuerst. Concentrating on the historic, yet humble drinking vessel, students studied form and function while acquiring the skills to throw their own mugs on the wheel.

Undergraduate mentors from the Harvard Allston Education Portal and their advisers, including Robert Lue, Professor of the Practice of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Director of Life Sciences Education at the Portal, enjoyed a retreat in celebration of the important work of their organization. Administrators, faculty and students worked side by side with Ceramics Program instructors to explore different methods of working with clay.

At May’s ARTS FIRST, talented undergraduate staff took the Ceramics Program "to the streets" where up and coming artists (some as young as 2 years old) waited their turn to work with Jack Cen ’11, Caroline Lowe ’12, Will Murphy, ‘13 and Ashley Robinson ’12.

During a year-long initiative, the Ceramics Program supported students from the Design Robotics Group at the Graduate School of Design for their project exploring ‘Ceramic Futures’. Their innovative research developed new methods of ceramic tile manufacture and, using robotics, produced a proof-of-concept for building facades that are both aesthetically pleasing and energy efficient.

Interacting with our Allston community was particularly spooky this year with October’s Barry’s Corner Treat And Greet event featuring businesses and organizations of Barry’s Corner in Allston. Our participating neighbors, Harvard Allston Educational Portal and the Silk Road Project, joined us in opening our doors to the public in the spirit of Halloween. Staff transformed our facility into an interactive haunted house to delight scores of young goblins and ghouls.

The Harvard and local community also made the Holiday Show and Sale in December and Spring Show and Sale in May the two most highly attended Ceramics Program events to date. More than sixty potters and sculptors presented an extraordinary selection of work and each opening day greeted a line of visitors that stretched across the parking lot. Our Spring Sale featured a "Hot for Kilns" silent auction benefit and raffle to help raise funds towards the purchase of a new, more energy efficient gas kiln.

Our Visiting Artist Program started off in September with the explosive energy of San Francisco artist Christa Assad’s two-day demonstration and public slide lecture. Referencing architecture as a major point of inspiration, Assad focused on capturing the essence of industrial buildings in the smaller scale, using the traditional teapot form. In March, Keene State University’s Associate Professor Paul McMullan shared techniques of mold-making and traditional printmaking techniques on clay. April brought in nationally recognized ceramic artist Kevin Snipes to discuss his practice of combining line, text and form within a narrative framework.

In addition to these high caliber artists, a particular highlight in March was the Elusive Tea Bowl: an international symposium in cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Japan Society of Boston and the Lacoste Gallery. Japanese master tea bowl artists Tsujimura Shiro and Suzuki Goro and American artists Jeff Shapiro and Richard Milgrim discussed the tools of the tea ceremony while demonstrating their throwing techniques to over 100 attendees. As the event coincided with the series of tragic events in Japan, the artists donated the over 80 bowls made throughout the day to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief efforts through the online auction "Handmade for Japan" as well as through the Japan Society of Boston’s website. In response to the day, one attendee remarked, "The world in a bowl of tea, in community and communication there was solace, hope, inspiration and laughter."