Ceramics club hosts Harvard's Stuart Gair for workshops

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 at 9:11 PM
Ceramics club hosts Harvard's Stuart Gair for workshops by Hazel Modlin
Stuart Gair hosted workshops at EU Jan. 29-30. | Photo: Hazel Modlin

Patience. That seems to be the most necessary quality when working with clay. According to Stuart Gair, the clay has to be the perfect balance between wet and dry to make the exact form you’re looking for.

From Jan. 29-30, the Edinboro University Clay Club presented five workshops from Gair, a current artist-in-residence at Harvard University. Gair’s experience in the field includes over 100 exhibitions and four total artist residencies.

His work is largely composed of usable objects, such as teapots and trays. “I prefer functional pots, and my favorite ones I make are functional, but they are also very sculptural."

Gair originally received a degree in history at Ohio University and went on to receive his master’s at the University of Nebraska. He mentioned that his history degree helps influence his pottery.

“I’m drawn to the essence of strength found in architecture, masonry and work that has endured through time. Surface treatment provides me the opportunity to explore these interests through the subtleties of architectural pattern, detail and geometry.”

According to Research Gate, surface treatments are the finished “look” of the pottery, including “texture, polish, resin, smooth and smudge.”

During Gair’s workshop, he demonstrated how to make several different household items, including a gravy boat, a mortar and pestle, a vase and a teapot. Though he had already made the basic shapes necessary to form each piece, he showcased a couple different parts of the ceramics process. Some of the moves he chose to demonstrate included how to attach a base, how to trim, how to make a handle, how to center a piece of clay on a pottery wheel, and how to finish a piece.

The workshop was highly interactive, and though he was the only one working with the clay, he invited the audience to ask questions as he went, and he explained each step in great detail.

Gair mentioned that he’s not unfamiliar with this type of instruction. “I’ve been workshopping for maybe three years now.” He also mentioned that he had taught several classes during his time as an artist-in-residence.

During Gair’s workshop, he utilized and explained a variety of ceramics tools. Out of all the available ones, Gair said: “I really enjoy the fork, it’s a multi-faceted tool. I also enjoy this rasp, which is kinda like a cheese grater for clay.”

He used the fork to “score” the clay. This made marks where, once water was added to make “slip” (a form of wet clay), the clay would be able to stick to another piece of clay, therefore binding them together.

He used his rasp to take away the lines that his pieces had acquired naturally from being thrown on the wheel, as well as to texture his final products. He also used a paddle and a trimming tool; the former aided in the process of slipping and scoring, while the latter was used to remove excess clay.

Gair commented that despite the two-hour length of the workshop, it was not enough time to fully develop the pieces to the level that he normally does.

When asked how long it takes him to make his pieces, he said that it varies. “I work in series, so to make 10 teapots takes four to five days, but 10 cups might take six to seven hours. It just depends on how involved the pieces are.”

If interested, Gair’s work can be found online at stuartgair.com, or artaxis.org/stuart-gair.

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