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A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community
 

Clay Master in Training: Sarah Mills ’21 at John Bryan Community Pottery

During my first quarter at Antioch College I applied to be a Miller-Fellow for John Bryan Community Pottery, and to my luck received the job. Miller Fellowships support Antioch College students for the benefit of the Yellow Springs community and to help tie the community and the college together, to form a good relationship in the village of Yellow Springs. Nonprofits apply for these grants every year to have an extra hand. Normally, they would not be able to pay for the entry-level positions, a vital resource to college students that need entry-level experience when they graduate college. These grants are handed out through the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

This opportunity was important to me as a first year and newcomer to Yellow Springs. I was able to not only get involved in the community of the village but also to start building my art career resume. These are both goals that are of extreme importance to my long term dreams, both wanting to be a good standing member of a community and to also one day create an artist collective studio/ gallery. This opportunity is not something one will find at many colleges in the United States, and I was blessed to have been able to get a jumpstart on objectives for my future goals. It was also a blessing to begin creating a place for myself within the community of artists in Yellow Springs, and in the village in general.

John Bryan Community Pottery (JBCP) is a full service ceramic studio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. They offer an array of classes at all levels of experience for the potter. They have been open for the past 40 years in the village of Yellow Springs, which has a high percentage of ceramic artists in the community. Ask any ceramist in the village and they will know about JBCP. Their mission statement, as their website states, “is to promote the appreciation of the ceramic arts in the community by educating the public through classes, workshops, exhibits and by offering facilities for making ceramic work.”

Photo I took for the JBCP website and social media pages.

“…We offer classes to people of all ages, races, orientation and proficiency of working with clay. Studio space is also available to Studio Renters with a demonstrated ability to work independently, however the studio is not designed nor intended to serve as a facility for the commercial production of pottery.” John Bryan Community Pottery has helped me to appreciate the ceramic arts. During my time here I have watched first time students become entranced in the art of clay. Later I helped teach them in my previous quarters at the studio, and now they are becoming studio renters and developing their art. It has been a pleasure to watch the growth of clay artists around the community, as well as watch my own growth in the art. I believe JBCP is thriving at their mission, and I like to believe I have helped.

Wheel throwing class getting ready to glaze their pots.

My role with John Bryan Community Pottery has developed further during my co-op. I have been wearing many hats at the studio. I have been helping with preparation of wood-kiln firings. In the past I have helped with transporting, collecting, wood and helping stack and split the wood. This is a task I have again helped with but this time around I have been able to expand my tasks. Preparing a wood firing is a lot of work. I helped with preparing the shelves, which meant taking off glaze and ash drips, then grinding the spots down, then preparing a wash for the tops of the shelves and painting this wash on the surface. I also helped create the wadding that must be on every pot in the wood fire, as well as on the posts between each shelf. While mixing the wadding and the wash I was also able to help with mixing glazes. I also learned how to sieve the glazes already made. This was a fun process and I am now very interested in creating and testing glazes. We also took a field trip to Cornell Studio Supply for a missing ingredient to make a glaze, as well as to get new cones for the next wood fire. Cones are used to help tell temperature in wood and gas kilns.

Other than helping prepare for the wood fire, Brad and I also tackled the daunting and difficult task of cleaning out the pug mill. We use the pug mill at the studio to recycle clay, a task I also participate in. This task I have not been able to help out with because our pug mill needed cleaned and was not working. Brad and I spent a few hours getting the pug apart and cleaning it. We high fived and exclaimed when we finally got the pug mill apart. It is now clean and working so I can get back to handling this task.

Outside in the kiln shed in the middle of a wood firing!

I have been working open studio’s on Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 4pm. This has been a great way for me to realize just how much I have learned from my time at the studio. People come to me with questions about the firing process, about glazes and about clay in general. I have been surprised by myself when the knowledge comes out of my mouth speaking to people. Open Studio is also a great way for me to get to know the community of potters from beginners to experts. Our studio renters often come in and I have become a familiar face to them. It feels really awesome to be part of the community here, and to know I help make this place run.

 

Bisque fired pieces from the wheel throwing class, waiting to be glazed and final fired.

I was given some research tasks to accomplish. While I have not completed these tasks yet I have gotten the ball rolling on both. First, we would like to start a class for seniors working with clay. I met with a couple members of the board for JBCP, one that has helped to get funding for a class through grants in the past. I have never written or researched grants before, so this has been something really wonderful to learn about. I believe I will face needing to apply a grant in my future, especially with my appreciation and desire to work for non-profit companies. We discussed what the class would be, who we would apply for the grant through, what company we would partner with in the village, and researching the data for the needed grant. We have a new teacher working for our kids class in the future, who has also worked with seniors. We talked about having her teach the class and also give us feedback about our ideas for the class. We hope to first apply for a pilot class through Community Foundation in Yellow Springs, and then apply for a grant, after the pilot classes kinks have been worked out, through the Ohio Arts Council. Applying for a grant through the OAC would be wonderful to get because we have already had a successful program through a grant from OAC before. If this program grant was also successful we can then apply for a grant just for business costs for JBCP, something that is needed for our community to continue to thrive. The other task I was given was to research open to the public wood fire kilns, like ours. This has been an extremely hard tasks, as I have found no wood fire kilns that are not through a university for teaching, or for only private use. I contacted several companies I thought may rent out space in their wood kilns, but I am waiting for response. This means our wood kiln is a rare entity. These tasks were pertinent to my desire to establish an art collective in the future, or to help out in an already established art collective. I will take these skills along with me past my time at JBCP.

 

Skulls before being glazed and fired.

As far as growing as an artist in this community, I participated in Joe Cetone’s Hand-Building class for spring. Like previously mentioned, I came to John Bryan Community Pottery as a person that did not consider myself a potter, or clay artist. Through this class I have made more than I ever have in my time at the studio. This class also helped broaden my interest in other ways to make clay art. I have started

Finished wood fired coyote skull.

sculpting. I also was inspired by a current renter, Alice Robrish. Alice is a sculpter, and a very experienced one. She is here most mornings, when I come in to work, sculpting for her upcoming art show. While Alice has not taught me anything, just watching her has inspired me. Through the help of Joe and Brad, I have made 4 clay skulls, animal and human. I have spent class time working on these art pieces. Joe, being an experienced clay artist, has helped me with tricks and tips on sculpting. I plan to continue creating these skulls until I have a large inventory and then sell them on through my already establish art page. I also have a gallery in Columbus, Ohio, that a friend has helped create, that is interested in having my skulls for a show after summer. This has been a wonderful development in my time at JBCP. I now have extra incentive to be working hard in the studio. I also come more often to “play in clay”.  This has been hugely important to my goals of coming to Antioch and to working at JBCP. One of my main goals in coming to Antioch was to develop more techniques to create visual art, especially in the third dimensional realm of art. I have also been primarily a 2D artist, creating images through painting and drawing. This has been a great milestone as an developing and aspiring artist. 

Overall, I have accomplished a lot in the couple months that I have been working full-time at the studio. I have gone past just mopping the floors, and really flourished at the pot shop. I will sincerely miss having this much time at the studio when my co-op is over, but I plan to stay with John Bryan Community Pottery as a Miller-Fellow for the 2018-2019 school year. I look forward to still being a part of this community in the future, and taking what I have learned to the next art job I have.

 

All photos taken by Sarah Christine Mills.

https://www.communitypottery.com/

Miller Fellowship Program

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I am currently a first year student at Antioch College pursuing a bachelor degree in visual arts. I hope to also explore interests and careers in the humanities and environmental sciences. I am passionate about preserving and exploring the natural world. I am primarily a painter, but I explore all fields of creating beautiful imagery.

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