Arts 046B – Ceramics II Final

The Ceramics II (Arts 046B) final at San Jose City College was this past Saturday. We came to class to find our glazed pieces scattered among the many different shelves, sand or grind the bottom of each piece to smooth off the sharp edges, wash the dust off, and present our pieces for the final critique of our artwork.

My large piece,  Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, has one face representing humanity/past and the other machines/future. The two smaller faces are bookends that served as test pieces for visualizing the faces and the glazes. I brought in a copy of “The Two Faces of Tomorrow” by James P. Hogan, a science fiction novel that I read in the 1980’s about two possible futures for humanity when the computer network becomes sentient. An abstract teapot didn’t get glazed due to the confusion of setting up the annual three-day ceramic sale last week will be ready for pickup on the last day of the semester. Four test pieces of a test glaze I made from a recipe called “land shark blue” was a shade closer to black than blue.

It was quite impressive to see everyone’s work. Although the potluck and critique were the main events, the raku firing was the highlight. Fiery orange pieces from the kiln got put into small trashcans with newspapers to catch on fire for the smoke to enhance the appearance of the glaze.

Ceramics, DVD’s & Books

I was expecting a quiet day at my ceramics class on Saturday with many of us glazing our last pieces for finals next week. Since this week was the annual three-day ceramics sale that funds the ceramics program at San Jose City College, our studio space was overrun by former instructors and students who made the pottery wheels disappear, swept and mopped the floor, and rearranged the tables to display an overflow of ceramics coming out of boxes in newspaper wrappings.

Those of us still glazing our pieces got shoved into the far corner to share limited space among the numerous buckets of glazes. A pain since we our large pieces weren’t that simple to glaze. My large piece, Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, in 25 pounds of recycled clay, took two hours to hand-paint a half-dozen glazes on. After that got put on the shelf for the kiln, I dipped an abstract teapot into two glazes, and made a test glaze from powder for four test pieces. I went home more exhausted than usual, spending the rest of the weekend watching DVDs and reading books.


“Battlestar Galactica: Razor,” a two-hour movie that’s being sandwiched between the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four of the popular science fiction TV series, set on the Battlestar Pegasus after Commander Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) takes command. Newly promoted Executive Officer Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) recalls joining the Pegasus with Rear Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) shortly before the Cylons attacked the colonial fleet, and becomes suspicious of Captain Kara “Starbucks” Thrace (Katee Sackoff) during a mission to track down an old Cylon starbase. Meanwhile, Admiral William “Thrusher” Adama (Edward James Olmos) recalls his younger days (played by Nico Cortez) during the first Cylon war, falling out of the sky from an aerial battle that destroyed his ship to parachute on top of a hidden Cylon basestar conducting secret experiments on humans to create the biological-based Cylon. Past, present and future collides in a final battle between the Pegasus and the basestar.

“Flight of the Living Dead” (a.k.a, “Zombies on a Plane”) was a DVD that I wanted to get last month. Horror movies generally follow a set formula (i.e., teenagers involved in sex and/or drugs die a horrible death in the 1980’s slasher films). The formula for this zombie movie is that anyone with an attitude on the airplane gets killed by the zombies. A laugh riot ensues as you got all the crazy stereotypes—scientists “who should know better” transporting a sexy carrier of the zombie in the cargo hold, young lovers cheating on each other in the restrooms, a fast talking criminal handcuffed to a dour cop, an air marshal who looks like a drug rehab dropout, a professional golfer polishing a putter with a whiny wife at his side, and a nun overwhelmed by sinners and zombies alike—on a doomed airplane over the Atlantic Ocean in a severe electrical storm. The funniest zombie was the one who couldn’t undo his seat belt and desperately tries to bite at anyone running past by his aisle seat. The ending was somewhat predictable as the plane crashes somewhere with the usual assortment of humans and zombies surviving the wreckage. If you’re a zombie fan, this is a pure zombie fest.


“Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, Volume 9” by Kio Shimoku just came out. This is the first magna series I ever read, starting with the first volume that came out in 2005 and I’ve pre-ordered every volume since then. There’s no overriding story arc in this slice-of-life series about an odd assortment of Japanese college students who are fans of anime, video games and cosplay, but don’t fit in with any of the other clubs. The story I identify the most with is Ogiue’s decision to submit her work professionally. She asks her boyfriend, Sasahara, who has a part-time job as a manga editor, to critique her work and she reacts badly when he tells her that her 50-page managa lacks focus. When he visits her the next day, he’s surprised that she had revised her work overnight, which isn’t easy considering the amount of drawings and text involved without using a computer, and proclaims that the new version is better. When she pulls out an 80-page story for him to look at, he wonders if their relationship can survive the critique process. I’m disappointed that this was the last volume of the series, as most of the club members from the beginning are now graduates.

I started reading “In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing The Second World War” by David Reynolds. Most people know that Winston Churchill as the widely quoted leader who led Great Britain during the darkest hours of World War II, but very few know that it was his writings that funded his long political career (which is quite different from today’s politicians panhandling for money). After being tossed out of office following the war, and finding himself short of money, he embarks on writing a six-volume memoir of the war as a follow-up to his five-volume memoir on World War I. If you’re a history buff and/or a writer (I’m both), this book will interest you.

Arts 046A – Ceramics I Final

Ceramics I (Arts 046A) has come to an end with a larger-than-life self-portrait head, several small statuettes, a large water jar and a square bowl. The self-portrait head was the biggest piece with ~23 pounds of recycled clay that took six weeks to finish. Revealing how I view myself instead of how I want people to see me, I described the bust as “a modern shaman and philosopher” on the name card introducing my work. My instructor wrote down in her comments that this was the most successful self-portrait in the class.

After having a potluck lunch and brief tour of the student art gallery, we displayed out finished work, wrote down comments on the paper set out for each set, and stood before the class to explain our work. The sad part was packing up our pieces and saying goodbye. The instructor wasn’t kidding that the semester would go by fast. I’m planning to take Ceramics II next semester.

Student Art Gallery (Spring 2007)

Before my class started the final critique in Ceramics I (Arts 46A), the instructor took us over to the student art gallery to check out the ceramic pieces done by students from the other classes this semester. The last time I was in the student gallery was 15 years ago for my first associate degree in General Education, taking an art appreciation course that reviewed historical arts in all its various forms. What a trip down memory lane.

Arts 046A – First Project

The first project in Ceramics I (Arts 46A) was creating six bowls on the kick wheel. It took 20 balls of clay to create eight bowls (one bowl got set aside for the next project). I enjoyed this part of the class even though it was hard work and I came home covered in clay dust as if I spent a day working in masonry block construction. Glazing the bowls was an unpredictable process as I tried different colors and techniques since I wasn’t required to form a set based on similar design and/or color.

Something About That Beard

I was coming home on the bus after working out at the gym and shopping at the grocery store. The bus trip takes about five minutes. Unfortunately, this particular bus trip was the longest five minutes in my life. A mostly bald gentleman with wispy sideburns and long hair at the base of his neck mentioned that I look like a rabbi with my long beard. That’s a strange comparison. Most people say I either look like a merchant marine or a Middle Eastern terrorist. This is the first time someone told me that I look like a rabbi.

I’m surprised that no one has ever said that I look like a Greek philosopher—or as Mel Brooks describes it, a professional BS artist—since I wear the beard without the mustache. A style I adopted during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s, which suited my facial features better as I started working at the gym and trimming down five years ago.

With the passing of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some people—mostly members of a Christian non-denominational church I belonged to until a few years ago—would come up to me to say that I looked like a terrorist and asked if I was planning to blow something up. They were joking around. I gave them a serious response that made some run away screaming: “No, but if I do, you will be the first to know.”

The gentleman on the bus may have been a professional BS artist himself as he expounded on how rabbis maintain their beards in Old Testament and New Testament times, how beards never go out of style, and, of course, women always love bearded men. When I got up to get off at my bus stop, he encouraged me to read a few pages of the Old Testament every day. An odd conversation. It never occurred to me until later that he might be Jewish. Most American Christians tend to forget that Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

I think I learned more than I wanted to know about beards in those five minutes. Since I’m the only student in my ceramics class with a beard, I’d created a small statuette of a human face with a beard in the classical style. This is in preparation for the larger-than-life self-portrait bust that I’ll be completing for the class final.

Arts 046A – First Week Activity

During the first week of Beginning Ceramics (Arts 46A) at San Jose City College, the class created two simple clay objects using the pinch bowl method.

The first object was a hollowed out sphere. Mine became an egg-shaped sphere and I flattened out the bottom to stand on. Some students added handles and legs to make decorative vases. I used a clear glaze to show off the marble of brown and porcelain clay. The egg is a bookend for my paperbacks.

The second object was a cup using porcelain clay. Using the same technique as before but with two different size bowls facing out and joined together to form a cup. I used a bright blue glaze for the exterior surface and metallic black glaze on the interior surface. This one ended up being a birthday present for my father.