This fall has brought changes to our careers. My wife has been re-arranging the tools of her craft, and in the moving of offices, a small set of organ pipes has found its way into our dining room. I was recently studying those pipes and how sound is produced through them. The principle is simple. Just as with ancient pipes and flutes, one blows through the end to produce a mellow tone. I was shown how to over blow, producing the upper octave. It’s intriguing that engaging a column of air through a hollow pipe will result in such a pleasing and specific pitch. But I’m no musician. So my train of thought naturally journeyed down the path of making instruments, especially those formed of clay. One thought led to another, and it brought to mind my upcoming course in ceramics to be offered in our spring semester at LSUA.
Ceramics is an ancient art, and its past is filled with the blending of pottery and music, as instruments were created to accommodate the needs of musicians. From the simplest clay pipe with a few strategically-placed holes to the more complex non-western instruments, the various types of clay materials have served musicians well.
Now that we are well settled into our new IMPAC building at LSUA, it is time to make use of the latest equipment that has been installed. With that in mind, we are offering two courses in the spring that should be of interest to both our students and the community at large. Any arts course that is offered by the university is open to non-traditional students by way of the audit process. I am not referring to “continuing education” or short-term courses that last for several weeks and provide a general overview of a craft. Courses such as FIAR 1661 (Ceramics I) provide an in-depth exploration of the methods and means of creating pottery. One can sink the proverbial teeth into the doing of ceramics to produce both functional and artistic ware.
The new ceramics lab at LSUA is outfitted with the finest equipment that can be found in any academic studio. We have gas, raku, and electric kilns—gas and raku placed outside the building in the ceramics courtyard, and the electric in a specially-designed room just off the studio. Shimpo wheels, 12 in all, are placed in the lab with large tables for hand-building. Clay and glazes have been ordered. All is set up and waiting for potters and would-be potters to begin their work in January.
FIAR 1661 is the first of the ceramics courses offered by the department. We will study the various types of clayware and the process of hand building by slab, coil, and pinch pot methods. Both functional and innovative pottery is in the offing, which brought me back to the organ pipes. I have this idea that we will create our own band of clay flutes and perhaps play a concert! There are so many things that can be created in a class like this. Wind chimes made of clay provide times of relaxation and delight in their soothing sounds. Sculptural vases such as those created by George Orr often come with their own stories! And of course, the beloved swamp monsters of Louisiana can come to life as each monster takes on a unique personality!
Spring will also find us in the new film photography lab. Equally outfitted with the latest equipment, the darkroom can accommodate just about any type of film. This gives students the option of using just about any type of film camera from Granddad’s old Kodak to the new 35-mm. no fail variety. FIAR 2995 is the listing of the photography course. We will study the art of photography from the landscape to the human form, including the technique of hand coloring. Photography is one of those media that provide a lifetime of enjoyment for the average person and I believe that the more you know the more you enjoy.
These two courses share some common ground. Aside from providing opportunities to explore the creative side of the participants, they require no prior training. Anyone can come into the classes, start from the beginning, and develop lasting skills in the medium. Results can be achieved in photography with the worst to best, oldest to newest camera. Clay and glazes are provided in the ceramics class. These are not, however, courses for the superficial. They do not possess a built-in dead end, but rather open the world of art to the learner to pursue as far as the spirit pushes. And they are designed for anyone and everyone. High school students who are pursuing early admission college level credits are welcome, as are members of the Central Louisiana community. There is a certain joie de vivre and rapport that always develops between university students and community members. The classes are non-stressful and inspiring. Everyone who tries succeeds. Our University Gallery provides a venue for end-of-the-year shows that enhance the sense of accomplishment. And often, one course leads to the next and we find participants returning to pursue the next level of study.
Taking a university course is an easy process. Simply call the LSUA Admissions Office and they can direct the process of registering, whether by enrollment or audit. Ceramics will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:00am to 10:00am, and Photography on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:00am until 12:00noon. We welcome you to visit the campus and see the new studios. If you are interested in one or both of these courses, please call me and I can direct you through the process of joining us. Who knows? You may discover a hidden talent that will bring you many years of joy. And in the process, you just may learn how to make and play a clay flute! For more information, please call me at (318) 473-6449.