Workshops help students develop artistic expression

Brindi Bays

In a dusty room, students watched as a man splashed a glaze coating onto a mound of clay.

The man stopped and grabbed a cutting wire.

“No two people cut through clay the same way,” said John Toki, co-author of Hands in Clay. He then sliced through the pink and blue clay mound.

A few students scribbled notes on paper while another walked around snapping pictures.

The students were in his workshop on ceramics, a part of the Kent Blossom Art summer program. The three-credit, two-week program ended June 29.

“The workshops are always optional,” said Eva Kwong, assistant ceramics professor. “But it’s not an opportunity students have during the regular school year.”

Kwong said the program allows students to develop artistic expression, appreciation and understanding of the arts. Students can learn more than just the academics, she said.

“By interacting with the instructors we have, students learn so much in one hour that they can’t learn from a textbook,” Kwong said.

Toki was invited to teach the students planning, construction, glazing and installation of large-scale ceramic work for public art.

Toki said after evaluating the level of the students, he was able to plan a session involving lectures, demonstrations and studio time.

“I wanted to provide information the students could adapt to their own artwork,” Toki said.

In roughly 30 hours, the students helped Toki build a sculpture that would have taken him two weeks to finish. The hands-on work was a tremendous learning experience for the students, he said.

“I would come back to the program without hesitation,” Toki said.

The summer program is also available to students and non-students outside of the Kent State area.

Kwong said Kent State facilities might offer materials and equipment other schools cannot, so they invite others to attend the program. She said they sent e-mails to local schools to announce the program and workshops.

Robin Krislov, art teacher at Cleveland Miles Elementary, joined the program because it was a great way to bring her skills up to date. She said she has had a lot of fun asking questions and learning from Kwong and Toki.

“I wish I could do more than just one program,” Krislov said. “I advise students to do all if they can.”

Dustin Green, senior crafts major, said he has learned more from watching Toki work than he has learned from his professors in the past two years.

Toki had advised the students not to panic when things feel disastrous.

“Toki taught me I need to just go with it,” Green said. “If something takes a turn, turn with it.”

Amber Podojil, senior crafts major, said just watching a professional work is beneficial. She said Toki gave the students a chance to collaborate on his project.

“You’re able to experience everything step by step,” Podojil said.

This summer, the program also offered workshops in painting, printmaking, sculpture, textiles and jewelry enameling. The program offers scholarships and housing to enrolled students.

Kwong said the program is completely worth the experience.

“I’d advise anyone interested in arts to take a workshop,” Green said. “The comfort of the program is very beneficial to my creativity and expression.”

Contact entertainment reporter Brindi Bays at [email protected].