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This past May, BGC students had the chance to attend a “Materials Day”; a day in which students partake in the “making” side of the material culture we study. At BGC, students enter with a wide array of skill levels as makers in many different media. While being an artist or maker is not a requirement for the program, it certainly aids in a fuller understanding of the material world.

In 2021, Materials Day participants visited BKLYN CLAY, a ceramics studio in Brooklyn. After a long year of mostly Zoom or socially distanced classes, the tactile opportunity to sit at the wheel and work with our hands was refreshing and wonderful. Masked and socially distanced, we followed along as ceramics instructor Cammi Climaco walked us through the process of throwing on a wheel. Almost all of us were complete beginners at the craft, though many had previously studied ceramics at BGC. I took an introductory class on Japanese and Korean ceramics during the spring, and was stunned to discover the duality of strength and gentleness that is needed to properly throw.

My own pieces were warped and distorted—a result familiar to most beginners in the world of ceramics, or any other craft for that matter. The process was rewarding nonetheless. There is often a stigma about beginning a craft later in life, and Materials Days let BGC students dive in without worry of embarrassment or failure. With a foot in the door, I’ll now be more likely to pursue beginners’ classes in the future.

After a couple of hours throwing in the studio, we each picked our favorite piece to be fired. There wasn’t time for us to double-fire and glaze our pieces all in one day, so we each picked out glazes for BKLYN CLAY staff to kindly finish the pieces, which will eventually be returned to us. Overall, it was a rewarding day at the end of a long term of hard work.

—Bridget Bartal