- colorful line -

Art 340 Ceramics
Cultural, Technical, and Hands-On Introduction
to the Production of Ceramic Art

Proposed Syllabus
Dr. Aaron "Wolf" Milavec
Shippenburg University

- colorful line -


Course Overview:

This course is intended for those studying ceramics for the first time and is a comprehensive introduction to the craft of clay working. Growth in skill formation and artistic sensibilities go hand in hand. The primary emphasis is on studio work leading to a portfolio of finished pieces by the end of the semester.

The main goal of this course is that you will be able to create as well as appreciate the expressive and utilitarian aspects of clay forms. You gain an understanding of how other cultures and periods produced ceramic art. Most importantly, you will begin to be proficient at forming ceramic art objects yourself.

Topics this semester will include:

  • Introduction to clay -- where it comes from, how it was formed, how it was gathered, early methods for forming clay objects, pinching and coiling, how ceramic vessels were useful, enjoyed, and mediums of cultural transmission.

  • Fostering a creative and safe environment wherein peer learning and peer encouragement enable everyone to feel secure in advancing progressively and in artistic self-expression.

  • Mastering the rudiments of hand building, slab construction, extrusion, tile making and slip casting.

  • Introduction to the potters wheel, centering the clay, forming bowls and cylinders... trimming and burnishing on the wheel.

  • Texturing and coloring clay, color used in clay and slips, engobes, oxides and underglazes as well as non traditional decorative techniques including acrylic paint and dye.

  • Glazing -- The function of glazes and how they are prepared... simple glaze testing... proper application, health and safety.

  • Firing -- Firing methods used throughout history including primitive pit firing and Raku firing.

    What you will need to buy/bring to your next class:

    Text: The Complete Practical Potter by Warshaw, Josie & Stephen Brayne


    Towel (old, ratty)
    Pottery Tool Kit & Fettling Knife (source: bookstore)
    Dust Masks (2) & Masking Tape (1"wide) (source: local hardware)
    Felt-Tipped Marker (black/blue)

    Academic expectations:

    Attend all classes, care about the work you are doing in class, see it through, visit the ceramics studio between classes to move your work along, help others in the class to succeed, keep the studio clean. The final grade is based on a portfolio of ten vessels showing your progress in the medium.

  • You will be given two Written Tests, at the end of the 4th and 8th week. The first will be on the vocabulary covered in lectures, demonstrations, and textbook. The second will be based on the last four chapters of the textbook..

  • There will be several In Class Exercises. These exercises are designed to develop your skills and to encourage discussion and analysis of the design decisions made by you and your classmates. You will be graded on your attitude, effort and timely completion of the assignments.

  • At the mid-term and the final class, you will particate in a "Show and Tell" that will give you an opportunity to display your finished pieces and your works in progress. After sharing some of your growing edges (successes/problems), your co-workers and instructor will have the opportunity to share their own impressions of your work. At mid-term, you will have a finished
    Coil-built Pot (based on historical pot), 2 Hardslab Boxes (one classical and one "heartfelt"), and a Balloon Bowl (softslab). At the final class, you will have 2 Mugs (wheel-thrown, with handles), 2 Bowls (wheel-thrown, trimmed), 2 “Flanged” Jars or Pitchers, and 2 “Seated” Jars (wheel-thrown, w. knob).

    Learning Partners:

    Participants would be advised to obtain a learning partner during the first class session. Minimally, such a learning partner would be willing to collect handouts and to deliver assignments in those instances when you are prevented from attending any given class session. Even if you do not anticipate being absent, you would do well to find yourself a learning partner such that, should there be an unforeseen sickness or emergency, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that someone is taking care of class matters for you without having to be notified.

    Special Needs and Accommodations

    Please advise the instructor of any special problems or needs at the beginning of the semester.

    Suggested Reading:


    Ceramics Monthly. 1609 Northwest Blvd., Columbus , Ohio 43212

    Studio Potter. Box 172, Warner, New Hampshire 03278

    American Craft. American Craft Council, 44 W. 53rd. St., NY, NY. 10019


    Finding One's Way With Clay. Paulus Berensohn, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1972

    Centering in Pottery, Poetry and Person. M.C. Richards, Middletown, CT., Wesleyan University Press, 1964

    A Potter's Book. Bernard Leach, Faber and Faber, London, 1960

    Clay and Glazes for the Potter. Daniel Rhodes, Radnor, PA.: Chilton, 1963


    [to be listed later]

    Resources on the WWW: The Ceramics Web - Web page devoted to ceramics, based at San Diego State University.

    ClayNet - Now hosted at About.com- Form of news, tips, techniques



    [to be established later]


    Studio Rules

    I expect you to work hard, to learn/create, and to have a good time (in that order!). I also expect you to respect yourself, your classmates, and the working environment (the studio).