On Aug. 22, Ted Neal hosted Ball State’s 12th annual community pottery class, allowing students, alumni and community members to test their skills and grow in the art of crafting vessels from clay.
During the Wednesday night class, the professor of art offers technical lessons for everyone, as well as creative lessons for advanced students. Attendees can come and go as they please throughout the 10 weeks.
“The class existed before I came to Ball State in a different form, but it had faded, so I wanted to give it a new look,” Neal said. “A lot of the students that come in for the class just want access to the equipment, but I get a wide variety of all levels of involvement. When I was a full time artist, all of the programs I did involved the community, so I wanted to share that with my students.”
This semester’s class demonstrates the diverse students and community members who come together to create personalized art.
Carol Burt, an alumna who has taken the class since 2002, said that she keeps attending because she loves learning new techniques and working with clay is a great stress reliever for her.
“You can spend years learning about clay and never run out of ideas,” Burt said. “The more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know.”
In addition to experienced members, the class also has members who are just starting out. Anjolii Diaz, assistant professor of psychological science, is a first time member of the class who has some experience from high school.
Diaz said she decided to go to the class because she needed to focus more on her “self-care,” her work to life balance, and she remembered how much she enjoyed ceramics when she was younger.
“I have never used a pottery wheel before as my experience has only been with slab building ceramic,” Diaz said. “I am excited to learn how to use a wheel and actually learn from someone with vast experiences in the field.”
Every student who attends the class has the opportunity to make as many clay pieces as they want, which means that some may walk away with boxes full while others may only have one.
For this 10 weeks, Burt said she wants to create functional pieces with the hand building technique she has been working on, and Diaz said she does not have a particular object she wants to make.
“Eighty percent of the projects made are vessel-based since most people work on a pottery wheel,” Neal said. “But this class is like any other class here at Ball State. The students have access to the room outside of the allotted three hours on Wednesday nights, so the students who are always in here practicing, will most likely go home with more than the students who only come to the class.”
Because the class includes a wide variety of talented artists who make varying projects, Neal said it can be a challenge to keep everyone rising together, but he has always welcomed the test.
“Each student has their own goals in here, and it is very individualized, but my goal overall is for everyone to grow in some way,” Neal said. “New students may seem to make more progress than returning members, but returning students are fine-tuning their skills or maybe learning new techniques which means they are still progressing upward.
“If by the end of the class, everyone is educated about the process and they have more appreciation for the time and work that goes into creating pottery, it will be a success.”
Along with understanding the background of pottery, Neal also said that the class will be a success if his students create lasting relationships with the community.
“If you’re a new contemporary artist and you don’t get involved with the community, it’s a huge mistake,” Neal said. “The community around you will always be your customer. It’s a give and take relationship. So if my students don’t start building those connections now, they could really lose a lot opportunities to create a market already.”
From the perspective of a community member, Diaz said she loves being able to see the work that students at Ball State are doing who are not in her departement.
“Muncie is a great community and outreach is paramount,” Diaz said. “Not to mention, it provides students with the opportunity to know, acknowledge and learn from the experiences of others.”
In addition to gaining a stronger network, Neal said members also get to practice professional leadership.
“This class is a completely different atmosphere than a normal class because students don’t feel the pressure from grades,” Neal said. “They get to help teach others who don’t have as much experience, and they get to work on their problem solving skills. Even when they aren’t actually talking to others, they are constantly teaching because people are watching and trying to mimic the techniques they are using.
“This class is a learning experience for everyone, no matter what skill level they have, and I love being able to watch those who have never done anything with art interact with those who hope to pursue art as a career.”
Contact Tier Morrow with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tiermorrow.