Today's ceramic artists draw from a wealth of technical and conceptual traditions, as well as from high-tech industrial applications. Such a multifaceted medium calls for similar versatility in the classroom, and that is what Western Colorado University's ceramics department provides.
Course offerings center on technical and conceptual issues, incorporating both traditional and contemporary concerns. Discussions, critiques, and lectures emphasize content and the development of personal expression. The department's approach is one of breadth rather than of narrow specialization. Because ceramics deals with the illusionary space of painting and the real space of sculpture, this medium inspires infinite options. The possible transformations of clay are so many, in fact, that students must maintain flexibility and openness to new ideas. Often, a student's exploration of clay sculpture and studio pottery-making becomes a springboard for more personal and contemporary image-making. In beginning pottery courses, students develop skills in hand building, throwing, learn the complexities of glazing and firing, and develop a vocabulary in vessel aesthetics. In sculpture courses, students explore clay's potential in its many forms - fired, unfired, ready-made, plastic, or powder. Traditional boundaries expand and new issues arise as the student's perception changes.
The department offers several multilevel courses in pottery, sculpture, and theory. Beginning and advanced students meet together with the same instructor; beginning students meet as a group, while advanced students receive independent instruction. Complete clay facilities are available for students: several styles of wheels, bulk materials (clay, slip, and glazes); plus free firing and the assistance of a shop technician. The department also features extensive sculpture process equipment. Most styles of kilns are available, including salt and raku, and there are separate facilities for electric and reduction firing. Although equipment and help are readily available, ceramics students are responsible for helping to stack the kiln, and handling and storing their own pieces.