James Gomez Explores Pottery Through Poly Visual Art

Aqua Frigidior Disputatio 2021 Black by James G.

James G. ’23 has discovered his love of pottery through mentorship and opportunities at Poly. He recently won a Global Online Academy (GOA) Catalyst Conference Award for audience engagement with his proposed community pottery center, as well as a Citation Award. One of his vases was also selected for a national exhibition of high school artists at the American Museum of Ceramic Arts (AMOCA). Read on to learn more about his craft and future plans with pottery.

How did you get started in ceramics? I’ve been at Poly since kindergarten. Our Lower School art teacher, Ms. Marrs taught us hand-building with clay. That’s where my love for pottery started.

We learned the process from play to creation and art. After learning from Mrs. Marrs, I took a pottery class at PolySummer with Mr. Freed, and he taught me the basics of pottery including wheel throwing techniques. I took it for two summers, then I took classes with Ms. Raftery in Middle and Upper School and she really developed and supported my interest in pottery. I also take classes outside of Poly at a local studio in Sierra Madre.

When the pandemic hit last spring, the studio closed and I asked Ms. Raftery if I could do any hand-building at my house in addition to the wood-working class I was taking with her. Ms. Raftery was so supportive; she had clay and tools delivered to my house and we would have zoom calls about pieces I was working on. She gave me ideas for projects, and I kept progressing. My uncle got an old kiln from a friend who wasn’t using it, and we installed it last summer and I began firing and glazing pieces at my house. Through this whole pandemic, Ms. Raftery and Poly have been very supportive, dropping off clay and tools and really encouraging me.

Can you share more about the American Museum of Ceramic Arts (AMOCA) internship? Last year, while we were learning at home, I found out about Teen Council, an internship program with AMOCA in Pomona. With the support of Poly and Ms. Raftery encouraging me to pursue my interest in art, I applied and was accepted. We meet weekly to learn from professional artists, and also how to teach other kids about ceramics and create educational programs and exhibitions at the museum. Right now, we’re doing a project where we’re making pieces that we will sell at AMOCA.

How would you describe your artistic style? Right now I do mostly wheel throwing. I like making vases and use the wheel to contort the shape of my pieces, such as making gourds (that was what the piece that was accepted for the national exhibition was, a double gourd). I like making vases with unusual shapes, such as bottle-necked vases, because those are technically more difficult to make. I also like purples, greens, and vibrant glazes that break and run, especially when layered over each other.

I am currently experimenting with making larger pieces, because it is hard to throw big with a lot of clay. What I like about wheel throwing and making pottery is that, even if you mess up, you can always recycle the clay and start again, or change the shape of what you are throwing if it collapses or sags a certain way. It’s always something different and a new technique. It’s a constantly evolving practice.

Can you describe your Global Online Academy (GOA) project? I like pottery, and I really like designing things. I used to play a lot with Legos as a kid and have always enjoyed design projects at Poly. The GOA architecture program is a more scholarly outlook on design and engineering. I wanted to tie in my love of pottery, so I designed a sustainable pottery studio for everyone in the community to use, especially those from schools with underfunded art programs. I got inspiration from the Poly studio because it’s really nice, and kids in high school especially get to enjoy it. I want others to experience that and share it with the community in Pasadena.

I modeled the structure from a pottery wheel. The wheel is the center area and the workbench or seat is where the office would be. I tied in sustainability too. My design included the use of 3D printers using biodegradable clay to make the structures. I also used a lot of glass in it so people can be immersed in nature outside of the studio while they are making pottery.

What are your goals with pottery? With pottery, I want to evolve my skills and submit to different exhibitions and maybe explore ceramics in college. I would also love to create an organization where we can sell pots and other ceramic art that we make and give proceeds to charities. Last year, the studio I go to had an art sale where artists could sell their pieces and I was able to sell a lot of my art and donated all the money I raised to the Pasadena Unified School District’s program for families of homeless children. I would like to do something like that on a larger scale, and to make my art serve another purpose other than the fun I have in making and displaying my pottery. I’ve also talked to Ms. Raftery about starting a ceramics club at Poly when we return to campus next year.

This article was originally published on Polytechnic.org on 05/17/2021.


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