If all it took to learn how to sculpt a bust or use a potter’s wheel was watching a video, anyone who has seen “Ghost” would be an artist.
But learning to work clay—pinching, pulling, prodding and slowly drawing the desired shape—well, that takes a learned touch. Fortunately, by the time spring classes at Carroll moved online, the students in Michael Imes’ two ceramics classes had already spent time in the studio, learning firtsthand the proper techniques for working with clay from Imes.
“It was really advantageous that we got half the semester in so that I could give an intro to many of the techniques,” he recalled. “I could introduce pinching, and pinching coil work and soft slab and stiff slab and the use of the potter’s wheel.”
Figuring out the remainder of the semester was a matter of technology and materials. Imes spent some time trying to determine the best platform for conducting virtual classes. Most of the online meeting options hosted lectures easily, allowing a moderator to lead discussions. But Imes needed a setup that allowed the students to see and interact with one another and to present their work to the full class. He ended up buying a month’s subscription to one service.
“I managed to do some online demonstrations,” he said. “And we set out clay outside behind the studio so that students could come in and pick it up without entering the building.” The department even lent out a couple potter’s wheels to students interested in pursuing that technique. Students living farther afield secured materials online.
The one concession to the pandemic was forgoing the requirement that the work undergo firing, though Imes is hoping to schedule individual appointments when students can drop their work off and have Imes supervise the firing.