A Hands-On Approach

BY: JAZMIN ARREOLA

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An ancient art awaits those who are brave enough to face the hypnotic spinning wheel and a malleable, messy ball of clay. While ceramics is an expensive form of art, it is readily available to students here on campus as well as to citizens in Long Beach that may just want to take some classes. Ceramics, is one of the most ancient arts that is still practiced to this day. For more than 2,000 years ceramics appeared in many cultures; Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and European all included. What many find fascinating about ceramics is its unique functional use in our society.

Ceramics, is one of the most ancient art that is still practiced till this day.  For more than 2,000 years ceramics appeared in many cultures; Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, European and even in the oldest civilizations of human life. What many find fascinating about ceramics is it’s unique functional use in our society.

Head of the ceramics department, Tony Marsh, who has been a part of CSULB’s art’s faculty since 1989 and a ceramics avid practitioner since 1972, describes his interest in the ancient art,

“I have always been fascinated by the fact that we use the materials out of the ground in combination with fire and water to make things,” Marsh says,  “it is humankind's first science and one of civilization's most important inventions”.

Marsh believes pursuing work you feel charmed about, will keep you captivated.  He also says patience will help you practice with the materials you have in front of you, like an instrument you’re learning to play.

Tony Marsh’s work has been represented by the Garth Clark Gallery in New York, Frank Lloyd Gallery in Los Angeles and has been a part of national and international art collections, according to CSULB faculty profile.

Shawn Dunn is a major in studio arts with an emphasis in ceramics at CSULB. He shares with us insight of an art student who stumbled upon ceramics.

"You can achieve a surprising amount of realism with clay and ceramics"  Dunn says how ceramics to him is a mystical type of art, "I push myself to imitate lots of things like nature or the human form," and advises us to know our materials,

“The key is understanding the materials you work with. Being a ceramic artist is a lot like being a chemist, you work with different elements to create specific kinds of clay, slips, and glazes,” Dunn says.

If you are good with your hands then you are good friends with ceramics,  Dunn says your main tool is your hands since clay is so flexible and can be molded into different forms.

Clay Wood, owner of Clay, has practiced ceramics for 20 years and approaches ceramics as a functional art,  “I like to create something that I can use or someone else can use, something that brings someone happiness,  I don’t like to make art as much as I like to make functional art”

To Wood, what started of with just getting a ball of clay thrown on the wheel in his sixth grade class, has transitioned now to firing kilns and building kilns,

“You can learn about ceramics your whole life and there is still stuff to learn”  Wood said, “On the basic level with clay it’s geology because we are taking earth and we are putting it on fire, changing molecular structures and bonding elements.  There is geology, there is chemistry because we are altering the chemical compounds depending on how we fire and it’s art”.

Ceramics studios can be an expensive hobby according to Wood,

"There is not a lot of places to make clay as far as the medium goes it is tough to do at home because it’s messy, you need kilns you need to get it hooked up”  Wood explains it is easier when you are in school but difficult once you are out of college,

“ It is not like painting, you can't do it at home so readily its expensive if you want to do it at home but That is why a lot of places like these exist.  This is the only one in Long Beach, privately owned, where you can rent space”.

With Wood’s entrepreneur goals, he spontaneously was able to determine the future of Clay, a forum of expression.  With five years in the running, Clay has provided affordable 24 hour service space for avid ceramics enthusiasts.

Clay is located at 406 E. 1st. Street, in Long Beach offering beginner taster classes for $30 and month long classes for $125.

Ceramics is not a mere hobby; it’s something more to ceramics artists like Shawn Dunn, Tony Marsh and Clay Wood. It serves practical purposes as well as provides aesthetically varied art. Taking a mound of earth and spinning it into whatever your hands are capable of seems almost like magic; combining elements can create an art that fascinates and serves a purpose.

Dare you to try it!