Ceramics students are throwing it down

Ceramics students behind the throwing wheel.

Byline: Words by Emily Hernandez and Miranda Navarro

Isabel Gonzalez crossed the Mexican border when she was only 7 years old. She and her younger brother left everything behind with no parents to guide them. After settling into the American way of life, Isabel’s mother cautioned her to not speak of her undocumented status. She told her it was for her protection.

Her midterm project this semester speaks to this experience with sculpted butterflies and baby angels, some with broken wings. 

“The Butterfly Project is a much larger project where I’m gonna have a mound of basically dead butterflies, coming out of the Rio Grande, which is the river that you cross, which I crossed as well,” said Gonzalez.

Isabel is part of a small cohort of advanced students who pushed through life and pandemic-related struggles to find their creative voice in Santa Ana College’s ceramics program. 

For three semesters, students were not able to turn in assignments because they did not have access to the studio since the school was closed. Students used Play-doh kits because it was all they had on hand and didn’t return to the classroom – and using real clay – until last fall. 

“During the pandemic teaching ceramics was awful, about as bad as it could be. Teaching ceramics in 3D was basically impossible,” said ceramics professor and program lead Chris Dufala. “So I stopped teaching intro to ceramics for a year because it was just too difficult to teach virtually. All our supplies were stuck in the ceramics room. The students were not able to work on anything and when they did, it was extremely limited.”  

 Ryan Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and has been in the Ceramics program for two semesters. He found SAC through the pursuit of realizing a personal project which led him to this program. With pinpoint precision, he crafts each tile and guides it through the process, from sculpting to firing it in the kiln, paying special attention to detail throughout every step of the way. 

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“We are so vulnerable with what we’re putting out. I think we are all trying to communicate something,” said Anderson. 

Ceramics students are also back to selling their art at public events. They held their first sale since the start of the pandemic in the Orange Farmers Market Feb. 26. Students sold everything from jewelry to dishware to artistic sculptures – all made in the C building’s ceramics studio. 

A second sale was held during the Santa Ana Art Walk in March. On the last night of his gallery showing, SAC’s ceramic technician Tim Keenan allocated a space in the back of his exhibition “Rough Edges” for students to sell and showcase their work. The students’ goal was not to sell out their artwork but to gauge community interest and involvement. 

“The money is not our priority, we love to get our work out there and show people what we are spending our time on,” said advanced ceramics student Sophia Krumbein. 

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