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Ceramics faculty continue hands-on classes online through ingenuity and home studios

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Ceramics demonstration.

Students can receive instruction and feedback by creating home studios they can work in while online with their classes.

Like all faculty, ceramics instructors had to make big changes. With Portland Community College practicing online/remote instruction since March, this group that is used to working with their hands has had to re-imagine their courses for the virtual platform.

But like with everything else at PCC, the college’s ceramics instructors have stepped up and are excited at what they have developed or adapted for the current reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the biggest benefactors have been students.

The once vibrant campus studio labs where students mold clay into works of art and fire them in state-of-the-art kilns are now quiet. But PCC’s ceramics faculty are innovating despite the campus closures. Since the transition to virtual instruction, students have been shown how to create an at-home art studio so they can participate in online classes and work on projects during virtual lab hours — receiving input from fellow students and instructors.

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The college’s Art Program provides quality studio and art history classes, which play a vital role in a general liberal arts education, as well as training to become a working artist. Faculty are committed educators, working artists and art historians, active in personal, professional, and community development.

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“The nice part about these courses is that it’s going to bring people together to talk about a subject they all want to learn about,” said Charlie Washburn, long-time PCC ceramics instructor. “We’re going to have class time where we are experiencing ceramics together, and we’ll have open lab time where people can get together to talk about what they are experiencing, and discuss tips and techniques.”

This fall, ceramics will offer an unfired clay class and lab hours to help students create their home studio and go through the processes of making clay. Staff will fire pieces that students keep when PCC reopens its physical campuses. 

Instructor Kowkie Durst, who worked with students this past summer online, said that even though the studios are not open, his program has created classes that connect students to each other and continue the program’s rich curriculum. 

“They appreciate the opportunity to connect with others and help them be inspired and keep making,” Durst said of his students. “Ceramics is all about touch and can be a great way to reconnect by taking a ceramics course with clay. We’ll continue doing the basics of hand building techniques which all require you to have that relationship of pinching clay or moving clay around.”

Ceramics faculty discuss courses on Zoom.

Instructors Kowkie Durst and Charlie Washburn discuss the online courses this fall with support tech Mandy Stigant.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »

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