Goshen College hosts a hidden gem in the basement of the Visual Arts Building: the ceramics studio. The studio is covered in a fine layer of clay dust, with shelves lining every corner to display student’s current projects. These include bowls, pots, coffee mugs, busts and more.Students from all backgrounds and majors have found themselves in the ceramics studio creating pottery and sculptures.
“I don’t always get as much time as I would like in the studio,” said Emma Zuercher, a senior sign language interpreting major with a minor in art. “But I’m intentional about creating time here. It’s like an escape. I think ‘I’m just going to create.’ Everything else disappears and it’s just me and the artwork.”
The Visual Arts Building, particularly the ceramics studio, has a certain culture that is difficult to find in other niches.
“I think a big part is that we all work in the same space,” said Simon Hertzler Gascho, a junior environmental studies major. “You’re definitely not working alone. Merrill [Krabill; professor of art] has worked hard to help us feel like this space is our own, so I never feel like I’m intruding. I feel like I can listen to music, relax and make this space my own.”
“Something I appreciate about the culture of art at GC is that you can’t say something is good or bad art,” said Zuercher. “Art is subjective. It’s about what it means to you as an artist. There are guidelines on what might be visually interesting, but once you figure that out, you can just ignore all of the rules. It doesn’t feel like there’s gatekeeping. Everyone has access to the arts.”
The goal of the ceramics studio is to create a community of artists, regardless of arts experience.
“It’s inspiring to see… other stuff people have been working on,” said Hertzler Gascho. “You get to share this thing in common, have a shared passion. Sometimes I’ll be here with a friend and just spend so much time looking at everyone’s work, talking about how cool it all is.”
“There is plenty of room for making mistakes and learning at your own pace,” said Zuercher. “Certain things tend to not work in ceramics, but I have never been told ‘don’t do that.’ There’s just so much room to explore. It’s freeing for me and a lot of other students.”
The studio has also given students room to create the work that they want to see — even if, sometimes, it’s a little unusual.
“The most challenging thing I have created would be a human head,” said Zuercher. “It was kind of me avenging the death of one of my pieces in high school that blew up in the kiln. It was less about creating a piece and more about human anatomy. But anyway, it didn’t blow up… and now I have this sort of creepy head in my room!”
Goshen College’s art program aims to help students learn how to incorporate art into their daily lives, whether or not they decide to pursue art in their professional lives.
“In college there has been a conscious decision to incorporate visual arts into my life,” said Zuercher. “I want to continue that. It’s inseparable from me. I will always put intentional time into it, but honor it as something sacred to me.”
“I do want to stay engaged with ceramics for the rest of my life,” said Hertzler Gascho. “Even if I don’t physically make pottery forever, I have a deep appreciation for it and I always will.”