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Speaking of Books on clay

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Speaking of Books there is one being made now that is all about the place I learned the most in Ceramics. I wrote a piece for that books which is in the editing stages now.

It was called the Laundry 

In the 50's-60s it was a commercial Laundry. In the late 60s it was bought by the Humboldt State University and turned into a pot shop. It has floor drains (wood covered cement troughs that drain out). They added a kiln room off the back. The builing is one huge barrel arch roof. A really great pottery setup for teaching.

Back then my mentor Reese Bullen  (who started the Art Dept there) hired a new instructor to help him teach ceramics from Alfreds as a recent gradute Lou Marak -it was 1969. I came a few years later to that program.

They hired another Alfred grad the year I came as well  (1972). It was the heyday of ceramics for this school. It was after the war and it was ahuge open learningtyransition time in ceramics-from Volkus to Arneson clay was expanding. Thes e recenty Alfreds guys where on fire from leaning from the greats who taught and wrote at Alfreds. Rhodes and the like passed what they knew down to my teachers who passed that to us. It was a solid 5 years in immersion in all things clay and kilns for me.Many a teacher and potter came out the other side of that Laundry .

In my time I learned slip casting, low fire ,high fire , kiln firing, hand building ,slab work,clay and glaze formulation just to name a few. I Worked in work study program for years as kiln and glaze room tec.( Back then tec was not used) loading and firing kilns of all types.Salt to low fire electrics-with redution cone 10 gas as the standard .

The program slowly after many deacdes switched as did many programs to  around the country  in schools to sculture and making art-mostly low fire. This slowy in my view turned the ceramics program into a lesser one than the one I was in at that time. I have heard lots of feedback on this from students over the past 30 years

Now the University recently became Cal Poly Humboldt and humanities is at the botton of the pile now. They now have funding to build in massive science expansion 3 new parking structures and you gues it the Laundry will be scraped to put in a parking lot as Joni Mitchell once said in a song. The last 10 yeared ceramics professor retires this year (JUNE) and no one is fighting this stupid mistake. For me the university long ago lost the community support as they do not care about that.

Two of the old ceramic teachers is compiling this book on 50 years of the Laundry-its history and students. I am just one of those and one of the few that choose the production pottery route over teaching and also stayed local and am still producing . In my. time we once had over 20 full timers in this small area making funtional wares now its me. Last man standing full time. The laundry is a special place for me in my brain  as well as the people who shared what they knew way back in the early 70s with me. When folks  are buying and using my pottery they really are using pottery that came from my years at the Laundry and those who taught there at that time.

Ps this book is being complied and underwritten by a gallery In Davis Ca called the John Natsoulas Gallery. John is footing the bill

He has a press at gallery and has had a 30 year ceramic realationship with HSU ceramics and did a book on the UC Davis ceramics lab already

its a great thing he is doing for our local clay history-if you are ever in Davis Ca stop by that gallery its worth the trip-just look for the 15 foot  high ceramic cat you walk to enter the gallery. You cannot miss it.



Edited by Mark C.
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I was working on my bachelors degree in ceramics at Wichita State University in the seventies.    WSU  was the sister university to Alfred,  all  of the students working on their masters came from Alfred.  So most of my instructor's were students from Alfred,  many of the WSU students working on their masters ended up at Alfred.   Every spring the department would get around 25 application for 6 openings in the masters course.    Rick St. John would set up a projector and show the slides of applicants,  he would show them for a week giving all students a opportunity to see them.   It was quiet exciting to be in school when ceramic studies were evolving and changing with the times,  it felt like a new beginning.  I feel sorry for younger generations  we had great ideals, music,clothing and exciting art.   My son's generation had whiny music and the borrowed our hippie clothing style.  One time my son asked how I knew about the cool clothes I bought him for school.  When I told him it was the clothes we use to wear he didn't believe me.       Denice

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Great story Mark. 

Coincidentally I brought in a copy of "Clay and Glazes  for the Potter", by Daniel Rhodes, this morning, to introduce a younger employee to the types of books I referenced in my younger days. I asked her if she was familiar with "Alfred" as being the center of the universe, in the pottery world, for many years. She nodded that she heard of it but wasn't familiar with  it beyond that.

It certainly had an impact, on this young potter, from afar. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ceramics by Nelson was our text at Mansfield State College. A small school near my parents home in north central PA. I was taking ceramics as part of an undergraduate program for my Art Education BS. The school had several good, albeit lesser known professors. My ceramics professor was Stanley Zuchowski, a graduate of Alfred. He threw large, and was a big man often hefting barrels of slip from one end of the room to the other when making clay.  In order to keep anything in the class from the wheel he had to see a 9 inch cylinder out of 3lb of clay. After that we were allowed to throw almost anything. I believe I got some of my prejudices from him: There are only 3 forms off the wheel, the cylinder, the bowl, and the plate. A bowl always has a round bottom, if the bottom is flat it is a lowly dish.  

My true introduction to ceramics books came when perusing the office of the ceramics department at Penn State University where I began graduate classes. I took them within the Fine Arts department as non degree. There were several texts i there that I knew I would one day own: Clay and Glazes for the Potter, by Daniel Rhodes; The Potters Dictionary of Materials and Techniques, by Frank and Janet Hamer; to name a few. To be honest, I first looked at these books for the pictures of pots, I had been interested in art all my life, but had very little experience with ceramics until that first class in college. It wasn't until I started reading beyond the pictures that I understood the art, craft and science beyond the pretty pictures. So my library has grown to fill much of a room.



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