A Review of Ceramics I


The pottery wheel used in class

Sarah Sexton, Contributor

For my junior year elective, I opted to take Ceramics I, the introductory class that you must take if you wish to continue on the ceramics course path offered at John Jay. The class is a half-year credit and is followed by, you guessed it, Ceramics II in the second semester. Judy, the instructor, does a phenomenal job teaching all of the motions and procedures of the pottery wheel. She is very willing to help and go over anything you might be confused about.

To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked into class that very first day of school. The basis of my knowledge consisted of simple shapes and basic sculptures out of clay.

So far, the class has turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s the third month of school, and I’ve already learned how to use the pottery wheel and replicate real life objects out of clay. The pottery wheel looks like something very easy to use, but take my word for it, it’s beyond frustrating. To use the pottery wheel, you must follow a series of specific steps. First, turn it on and place your clay onto the board, called the bat, which lays on top of the spinning mechanism. To start any piece on the wheel, you have to first center the clay. This process involves raising the clay up and pushing it down, so that the clay is centered when opened. To open the clay up, use your fingers to put a hole in the center, and proceed to pull out and up to get the shape you want. The challenge of the wheel is in the precision. Any slight move–too much pressure, unbalanced fingers– can mess up the whole piece, hence the frustration of the process.

After learning the basic steps the wheel, we tentatively began to create our own pieces. We started off by making cylinders, the basis of most pieces (bowls, plates, mugs, etc.) that you can create on the wheel. Once the piece has been fired, you can then paint three layers of color glaze. This glazed piece then goes back into the kiln to be fired, the very last step of the complex process.

My goal in taking this class was to learn the way of the wheel. Now, I am proud to say that I have achieved my goal! I would definitely recommend this course to all students looking for a fun and engaging art class, despite the challenge of the wheel in the beginning. Once you learn how to create the basic shape of a cylinder, other pieces will come naturally.

The class itself is also very informative and extremely relaxing. Having a period where I can take time out of my busy schedule and work clay into beautiful pieces on the wheel is a perfect stress-reliever. Sitting at the wheel and getting one’s hands dirty in clay is strangely calming. The beauty of ceramics is that if the piece doesn’t work out, get more clay and start all over again.

This year I am most looking forward to making a mug. Although the handle will be extremely challenging, I am so excited to use bring the mug home and use it. Overall, Ceramics I is a great class that brings you both a challenge and a peaceful break. If this is not convincing enough, a major bonus of the class is that you leave with beautifully decorated bowls and mugs to bring home and put to good use!