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Workshop: What is Clay?

3 rings by Judit Varga
3 rings by Judit Varga

What is Clay?
November 8–10, 2013
$100 tuition ($5 for Friday’s slideshow only)

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Coming up next weekend, we’ve got a special workshop planned for ceramics students with visiting instructor Judit Varga. What is Clay? explores the fundamentals of the material in order to encourage new experiments and a better understanding of the whys of ceramics. The weekend workshop opens with a potluck and slideshow on Friday night, which can be attended separately from the workshop for $5.

The instructor, Judit Varga, studied ceramics in Budapest, Hungary before moving to the United States twenty years ago. Her work explores organic forms — pods, cocoons — and simple shapes like knots, squares, and circles. You can see more of her work on her website and in this video interview with American Craft Magazine.

We asked Judit to tell us a little more about the workshop:

What was the idea behind this workshop? How would you answer the title question — what is clay?
Judit Varga: The idea behind the workshop is to show my way of working with clay. I embrace the material fully, I believe clay is a living material. I’m not just passively using it, but trying to understand the physical and chemical interactions in clay, all the way down to the clay molecules. Using this knowledge to create ideal situations for the clay to behave naturally, the way I would like it to do, is what keeps me in the studio and brings me back to my worktable to try it again and again.

I work with raw clay, applying my colors, surfaces on the wet clay only, my works are fired once in electric kiln cone 6. I will explain recipes of clay based coloring and surface treatments, including terra sigillata, slips and engobes. Understanding the basic relations between colors, surfaces, firing temperatures and so on will be described.

Hive by Judit Varga
Hive by Judit Varga

Who is the workshop for?
The workshop is preferred for students with at least minimal knowledge in clay, enrolled in beginner hand building or wheel throwing would be nice but I hope for students who would like to extend their palette and technical skills.

What makes this different from other ceramics workshops?
What will make this workshop different from others? Maybe the way I approach clay. Most of the books, workshops, videos give a step by step introductions like cut it, stretch it, punch it, decorate it, bend it and so on without telling the whys. My approach is to find the answer at first for the very basic question about the material: What is it? Where does clay come from? How does it develop in nature? What are the main ingredients and properties in clay which makes it so desirable to work with? How does this basic knowledge can be applied to hand building techniques? Why do we bother to follow some rules when we are working with clay? And how far can we go stretching the boundaries of these guidelines and still making pieces which can be fired successfully in a kiln? To extend the possibilities, not just trying to repeat something which has been already done, to have the guts to experiment and try new ways one needs a basic understanding of clay as a material. That what this workshop is trying to help with.

Blue coil by Judit Varga
Blue coil by Judit Varga

Click here for the workshop registration page.

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