During a visit to a working art studio, ceramics students at Canton High School transformed their pottery into colorful and completed works of art.
Late last week, a group of 10th through 12th graders and teacher Renee Hughes visited the studio of Simsbury clay and steel artist Vicente Garcia. Students brought the clay pieces they had created at the school. Each had already been "bisque" fired in a school kiln, a process that hardens the material.
Under the guidance of Hughes and Garcia, the students used various techniques to put the finishing touches on their work. Many chose a Raku firing technique. First the students added a glaze to their pieces, which were then placed into a 1,900-degree kiln for 30 to 40 minutes before being transferred to small metal garbage cans filled with pages from old magazines. The heat ignited the paper and the ensuing flames were then fed with more paper before being quickly snuffed out by closed lids, depleting oxygen in the chamber.
"That allows the colors to develop," Garcia said.
Other students chose a smoke-fired process, in which non-glazed pieces went through a similar process — placed into barrels of newspaper after some time in the kiln. They were later watered down and cleaned off, revealing various levels of blackening.
Some students chose a method in which hair is placed on non-glazed pieces right after they are pulled from the kiln. As the hair comes into contact with the hot pieces, it burns unique patterns into the art.
Many students got to experience each part of the process by volunteering for various tasks.
Garcia, a professional artist and professor at Central Connecticut State University has worked with Canton students since 2007. Under a resident artist program, he comes to the school to demonstrate clay techniques for students, who later take the trip to his studio.
"I have always enjoyed teaching and sharing the knowledge that I have accumulated," said Garcia. "It's exciting to see students grasp the concepts and techniques and use them in their creative process. I am fortunate to teach what I love to do."