Winter Arts Festival showcases pottery
An exhibit and sale of students’ pottery and ceramics creations illustrated Pierce College’s annual Winter Arts Festival on Dec. 1.
Walking up the stairs leading to the Art Department, there is a slight commotion. People walking around all seem to head in the same direction, towards room 3308.
With two pottery wheels in front of him, a bearded young man, hands full of clay, is sitting across from the entrance.
Nick LaPointe, a former Pierce student and a member of the Art Department “family,” gets together with his peers, fellow pot throwers and art lovers annually to introduce inquiring customers to his craft.
“It takes years to master,” LaPointe says as he smacks a chunk of clay on the wheel. “The community here at Pierce and the Ceramics Department is very close, very strong.”
Although LaPointe took pottery classes in high school and remembers his first pottery creations from 2nd grade, it was a college course that really got him into the art.
LaPointe says pottery is a therapeutic experience.
“It can be a double-edged sword because whatever is on your mind is reflected in your pot, in what you’re making,” he says as he is pulling up the pot he’s throwing. “Sometimes it’s tough to black it out.”
The spinning clay is hypnotizing and the way he carefully, but confidently manipulates it mesmerizing.
“It’s all very gradual,” he says. “You have to gauge everything properly.”
“Every piece I look at, I know where I was at the time,” he says. “I know when it was. I know what I was thinking.”
La Pointe, who used to teach kids in the San Fernando Valley, attends the event every year to demonstrate his skills to curious visitors and to encourage them to “get their hands dirty.”
“Anyone who has a drop of artistic ability can do this,” he says as he finishes molding a basic round belly pot. “It makes you feel really good.”
Sitting at the pottery wheel next to him, Sara Wedman, also a former Pierce student, currently teaches kids at a private studio in Sherman Oaks.
As LaPointe successfully accomplishes what he calls “difficult” – but makes look easy – process of removing his creation from the wheel, Wedman prepares to throw her own pot.
“Nick has been doing this a hell of a lot longer than I have,” Wedman says, trying to center a piece of clay. “I don’t get a lot of time on the wheel because I teach.”
Melody Cooper, professor of art, has been attending the event ever since it started about twelve years ago and says it is “beneficial on many levels.”
“We encourage the art students to participate in this because it gives them a lot of feedback about their work from the public,” Cooper says. “It’s kind of our outreach for the community projects so that we draw the public into the (art) community, into the campus.”
The event can be beneficial to both artists and customers, Cooper says.
“[The artists] build a following and so people come back every year to buy their things,” Cooper says. “We have a lot of customers that have collections of a certain artist.”
Cooper says the festival serves as an introduction to the department, which also has a fundraising side to it.
“A percentage of [the students’] sales goes back to the ceramics club,” she says. “Once in a while, we use that money to buy big equipment. It helps supplement our department.”
The event provides an extension to the courses offered and to the students’ education, Cooper says.
“It’s great for the student because they start to understand, as a business or as a vendor, how you can make money from taking this class,” she says.
As LaPointe and Wedman did, Cooper underlined the strong bond between the members of the department.
“Our ceramics area here, we’re like a family so we like to get together and see each other” Cooper says. “It’s a continuing educational process.”
“The learning just keeps going on and on,” Cooper concluded.