Molding creativity


POSTED: Monday, December 07, 2009

Unlike many college professors who work in outdated labs, a dozen years ago or so, Windward Community College art instructor Paul Nash had an opportunity few receive: He was able to design the school's ceramics lab from the ground up. Or from the kiln-bricks up.

Today the WCC Ceramics Lab is one of the worst-kept secrets in college art programs, a place with a state-of-the-art workspace design and instruction that attracts students—and part-time potters—from all over the state for study.

Art teacher Jean Noguchi has taught at several Oahu public schools, and says that the WCC lab “;is arguably the finest setup, as far as ceramics labs go, in the state. It has a fabulous layout that Paul Nash had a hand in designing, and it's wonderful in that it invites high-end creativity. Plus, there's that setting, under the Koolaus! So beautiful.”;





        Presented by the Windward Community College Ceramics Club

Place: WCC Palanakila Building


Time: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday


Admission: Free


Call: 235-7323




The quality of the students' work is such that twice a year the school Ceramics Club has a sale of student creations, raising enough money to fund scholarships and buy needed supplies. This year the event will take place Friday and Saturday.

“;After looking at other studios and business facilities to map out work-flow, I figured out what was needed in a college-level lab,”; Nash said. “;It began in the 1980s, during school faculty discussions about our future, and then in the early '90s there was the commitment to rebuild the college into a modern facility.

“;From there the architects took over and balanced space issues with other departments. We're very pleased with how it worked out, and instructors visiting from other schools are pretty impressed. You don't get the opportunity to design a lab from scratch very often!”;

Art major Daniel Menasian praises not just the lab's design; he's also impressed with the staff Nash has built up. “;There are always lab assistants on hand to help you,”; he said.

Steve Martin—no, not the banjo player—is a full-time ceramist who has everything he needs at home, but he'd rather pay the school a fee and volunteer as a “;labbie”; to hang out at the WCC ceramics center. “;I have a whole new set of friends,”; he said. “;I just like the people here.”;

Martin originally took classes in the basement of the Honolulu Academy of Arts after being inspired by an exhibit there. “;But it doesn't compare to this. ... Nothing compares to this!”; he laughed. “;There's nothing like it in the islands; it just has so much going for it. Modern kilns, floor space, high ceilings, drying rooms ... Fifty students can work here comfortably. It's just a well-designed, well-appointed ceramics studio.”;

Martin said that many potters had been using a facility at the downtown YWCA, but that shut down, and many, including him, migrated to the Hawaii Potters Guild in Manoa. “;That's where I learned about the WCC studio, and so I became a student here.”;

“;It's one of the best on the island, even in the state,”; said assistant instructor Bryce Myers. “;We teach a large variety of styles and several firing processes. And we keep it super-clean so it's a nice place to come to.”;

Nash said that many of the students who graduate from the program are performing good work when they leave, easily able to hack it in a larger school like Manoa. “;It helps being a smaller school. We have more student interaction, ratio-wise,”; said Nash. “;Some of the students in community college aren't ready for—or need—a higher-level college, but, even in an arts class, we stress the importance of being on time and completing assignments. It prepares them. They're young adults, most of them, aged 18 to 25, some younger because of GEDs.”;

THE CERAMICS classes at WCC are a mix of Western and Eastern styles, particularly the Chinese “;high-fire”; process that emigrated to the United States in the 1930s, and Japanese raku styles.

“;We teach ceramics philosophies in class, not just the mechanics,”; said Nash. “;We have a two-year program and are in talks with Manoa about offering 300- and 400-level courses, creating a BFA program at Windward.

“;Some of the private schools have good ceramics labs, but I'm not sure what's going on in the public schools anymore. The students coming out of public school are not just new to ceramics, they're new to art in general. Pretty ignorant, oblivious, and that's too bad. The schools should teach a more rounded curriculum, and art is one of the basics of a civilized society. Education should be like the military—a social service we can't do without. We say education is necessary for society to evolve, and yet ...”;

“;It's not just about making pots,”; said Myers. “;We're teaching in higher levels about how to approach problems in general and come up with creative solutions. Art teaches you new ways of perceiving the world so you can break out of predictable patterns, enter a broader process of thought than you might have imagined. Art makes you a better thinker and doer.”;