Visiting artists teach WCC workshop

By on April 9, 2009

Class kicked off celebration of outdoor kiln yard renovation
by Susan O’Neill
Waubsonsee Community College art and ceramics professor Doug Jeppesen celebrated the completion of the college’s outdoor kiln yard renovation by inviting two artists to conduct a weeklong workshop from March 13-21. Studio potter Tara Wilson from Helena, Mont. and assistant professor Ben Krupka from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass. spent the week demonstrating their techniques and working with students on the wheels to create their own pottery.

Jeppesen brings in an artist each semester to work with students. He said it is important to expose his students to other artists so they learn different techniques. Jeppesen said the interaction with other artists inspires him, as well.

“There are as many ways to do things as there are people,” he said.

In addition, being a studio artist is a different way of working than teaching others, he explained. Making a living with her pottery gives Wilson a different perspective and lifestyle that she can share with the students.

Both potters were impressed with Jeppesen’s facilities. The renovation of the outdoor kiln yard began in May 2008. The yard houses four wood kilns, including the Anagama kiln he recently built. Jeppesen said the kiln is modeled after a 5th century Asian-style climbing kiln. While an Anagama kiln is normally built into a hill, he dug this one 42 inches deep into the ground.

According to Jeppesen, firing with wood gives the finished pieces a different look than when they are fired with a natural gas or electric kiln. The temperature in a wood kiln reaches about 2,400 degrees. The wood ash blends with the material to form different effects. Loading and stacking the pieces inside the kiln in varying ways also varies the results.

“The fire is like a river,” he said. “It will find its path of least resistance.”

Wood-worker and home-builder Arnie Kalnins said he became interested in ceramics through his friends, Sugar Grove residents Tim and Sue Norris. They own and operate Spring Bluff Nursery in Sugar Grove, where Sue sells some of her pottery.

Kalnins said his interest led him to take a ceramics class at Waubonsee Community College with Jeppesen. During his first class, he learned about clay and how to work on the wheel. After making bowls and other simpler objects, he is currently taking his third class, where the students work on larger and more complicated pieces.

“Doug’s got a wealth of knowledge,” Kalnins said.

He said that if Jeppesen doesn’t know the answer to a question, he can tell you where to find it.

“It’s a pretty impressive program,” Kalnins said. “It’s one of the premier studios in the state. It’s so well-equipped.”

In addition to the kiln yard, the indoor studio has 10,000 square feet of working space, with work tables, potter’s wheels (both kick and electric), two separate kiln rooms, a separate glaze room and plenty of storage for student work.

Kalnins, whose goal is to eventually learn how to make mosaic tiles, said that he enjoyed working with the two master artists.

“Each individual artist has their own vision that gets translated into their work.”