Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ode to City and Islington College Thursday Evening (and one yearofWednesday evenings) Ceramics Class

So the news is bad. Despite over 3500 petition signatures (some of whom are huge in art and ceramics circles including but not limited to: Grayson Perry, Edmund de Waal, Carol McNicoll, Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, plus thousands of outraged and supportive fellow not-such-big-names), a decent protest and lots of social media & old media rabble rousing, meetings with local councillors, letters to MPs, management, the Principal and the Governing Body, the college has pushed ahead with it's planned closure following the end of its brief and swiftly organised (non)consultation.

We have one week left of term. And then that is the end of it. RIP.

I have attended this class since academic year 2006/07 which is an astonishing 9 years (I always think its more like 6).

The first term I attended there was an influx of us - a couple working in regeneration, an architect, a couple of secondary school teachers. Large personalities, talkative. The class was lively, friendly, we learned from each other as well as from our tutor.

The second term had quite a few of us returning but also some other new people. It kind of reverted back to what a traditional pottery class is like - lots of people into their individual endeavour, rarely looking up from the clay, little interaction. We practised our skill. I missed the camaraderie of the previous term. With the tutor we invented the "5 minute exercise" - a short slot in the middle of the class where we did a group activity which was designed like 30 second life drawing exercises to loosen us up, meet one another and do something less navel gazing for the briefest period of time. Some of them gave me ideas that I expanded - make 10 things in 10 minutes, coil as high as you can in 5 minutes - others were just silly but fun - throw a pot with a partner - one hand each, in a group without looking at each other, one makes a head, one makes a torso and the other makes the legs, then join it all together. We even made a minute version of Antony Gormley's field using the instructions he gave for making the little gorms. We also started a blog - first a flickr page, later a blogger blog when the college system banned flickr. It grew into a valuable community of practice where each member of the class could load up their own pictures, describe the making and glazing process (if they chose to) and get feedback. These additional activities brought back the fun of the first term and made the class less cliquey. The blog also charts the progress and achievement made by the individuals in the class (if they chose to upload their work) over time.

In the last term I decided to round off the work by going back to where I began to truly like ceramics. The first pot I thought was pretty successful was the first naked lady pot. I used life drawings from the previous class I did to make motifs for pots - I used them over and over refining across a number of different objects. This term I made a naked man pot. A full circle.

Naked Lady Pot

Giant Pot
Naked Man Pot

And in between I have channelled the frozen planet, things that live under the sea, desire to join different types of clay together, urge to build tall things, big things, things with handles, go small again. 
Wavy Urn

Wavy Stalked Urn
Frozen Planet Pot

Hour - 60 things made in 60 minutes
Cracked pot
After Jamon
Zebra pot
salt firing - pinch pots
And experimented with firing techniques.
Raku pot
Norfolk beach smoke firing
And more than the creative outlet of making things in clay, there is a core group of people who have attended alongside me for all or quite a lot of the time I have been attending. I can't remember when exactly that we began going for a drink after class. Several years, it felt like, going for a beer at the Arsenal Tavern after class - a non-busy pub on non-match days, who would cook chips for us before they closed the kitchen at 10. Became known as the mouse pub due to the pests that lived in the saloon bar - often to be seen scarpering across the back edge of the room late in the evening. When new cohorts joined the drinking fraternity we would say we are going to the Mouse, and nobody ever knew of The Mouse on Blackstock Road - we had to revert back to its real name. After a time we discovered a neighbourhood pizzeria where we could get a slightly more hearty meal. 

This is the thing about the class - it has given me a creative focus with personal development and great friends. I'm going to miss it.

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