Ceramics ignites creativity

Justin San Diego

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Students build art and comradery in class

The ceramics department at San Jose City College offers creative outlets for students while educating them on the fundamentals of working with clay.

The campus offers three different classes for ceramics: Beginning Ceramics I (Art 46A),  Beginning Ceramics II (Art 46B) and Special Projects in Ceramics (Art 89). Students can earn three units for taking any of the courses.

The classes are held jointly in the same room at the same times.

Michelle Gregor, the only full-time ceramics professor, has been teaching at SJCC for 12 years.

Instead of tests, Gregor holds class critiques where each student explains the type of clay, paint and glaze they used. She grades art by technique, craftsmanship, glaze application and concept.

“The class is busy, friendly, and inspiring,” said second-semester ceramics student Truc Anh, 26, social work major.

Gregor makes each student explain what they would have changed about their work and which other student’s piece they admire.

Leslie Urbina, 52, liberal arts major, is taking ceramics for the third time. She created a sentimental series of bowls that were associated with her family.

One bowl represented her relationship with her father and included a crossword puzzle, a National Guard symbol and the text “Hey Dad, (Big Hug) I Love You.”

Urbina said she and her dad never said “I love you” to each other, and he passed three months after they started saying it.

“For someone who’s not into art, this class helps discover another part of yourself,” Urbina said.

Many beginning students’ works are technique driven, but advanced students use emotional and cultural components.

Gregor said one of the most challenging aspects of the class is learning how to use the potter’s wheel.

Starting next semester, a ceramic sculpture class will be taught at SJCC for the first time.

“Function is not a goal when creating sculptures,” Gregor said.

Bas relief is a style of ceramics that attaches to a wall. Hollowing is building armatures that are empty in the middle. Gregor said she plans to explore both techniques in ceramic sculpture.

There will be a material fee of $25 for each student taking any ceramics class.

Evergreen Valley College does not offer ceramics classes, making SJCC the only college in the district to offer them.

Many ceramics students expressed having a high interest in the beginning ceramics class and were interested in taking the class again.