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Spartan Clay Club makes ceramics accessible to more students

December 6, 2011
Art education seniors Jackie Alson, left, and Ashley Huiras share a laugh before they prepare pottery for the large gas kiln Tuesday afternoon at Kresge Art Center. Justin Wan/The State News
Art education seniors Jackie Alson, left, and Ashley Huiras share a laugh before they prepare pottery for the large gas kiln Tuesday afternoon at Kresge Art Center. Justin Wan/The State News

As soon as he picked up his first chunk of clay, Wade MacDonald’s fate was decided.

While attending Western Michigan University for his undergraduate degree, the current MSU graduate student took a class in which he was able to work on a ceramics wheel and decided to incorporate the practice into his future career.

“I’m a very touch-oriented person, and ceramics is all about touch and having a very intentional way of touching clay that allows you to create something,” he said. “For me, it’s about touch and the way that the clay feels in your hand.”

As Co-president of the Spartan Clay Club, which was formed in 2002, MacDonald continues to make ceramic items and build a community of MSU students who also are interested in the artistic practice. One of the groups biggest annual fundraisers, the Spartan Clay Club Holiday Sale, took place at 10 a.m. Dec. 1 in Kresge Art Center. Pots, bowls and other items handcrafted by group members were for sale.

“It’s important that we have a student organization that’s happening in ceramics,” MacDonald said. “It helps students to get to know people who are working around them and establish friendships.”

The club serves several purposes: to provide support for ceramics students, to make ceramics accessible to a broader range of students at MSU and to raise funds for different extensions of students’ education.

“To have support for any art is what is important,” said Spartan Clay Club Adviser Paul Kotula, who is a professor in the Department of Art and Art History. “To work together educating one another is an important aspect of any art form, (and) it seems that ceramics welcomes this kind of community aspect.”

The money raised at Thursday’s sale will be used to help send artists to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference, to purchase new supplies and to maintain their studio.

The organization, which is open to all students, meets at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday in Kresge Art Center’s ceramic studio. Sometimes upcoming events or important topics are discussed, but usually club members just gather together to create work to be sold at future sales, graduate student Bryan Adams said.

“It’s a great group of people,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to
talk about things that aren’t school-related.”

Although there are several clay guilds or other places for students interested in ceramics to practice the art in the Lansing area, Adams said being a part of the Spartan Clay Club is a better opportunity for them because it’s in a familiar setting.

“If you’re a student going to the clay club on campus, you are familiar with MSU,” he said. “We’re students just like you, so we understand how hard it is to have time to relax and have free time. It’s nice to meet other students who are taking classes and doing what you’re doing.”

Kotula said he has noticed a great deal of interest in the club and ceramics in general at MSU.

“Ceramics is an amazing medium that instinctively and intuitively everyone knows,” he said. “Clay is something you can touch, and it leaves your mark behind.”

MacDonald said he hopes he can create a more tight-knit group but also help the club continue to grow.

“I hope (members) can take away a sense of community,” MacDonald said. “Really, it’s an enhancement to the normal experience that would happen in a ceramics program. It’s just more people working together to accomplish goals.”

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