Clay time: Three generations take same ceramics class

News-DemocratFebruary 23, 2014 

The Tuesday morning ceramics class at Southwestern Illinois College is a family affair.

Trudie Lindsey, daughter Latosha Johnson and granddaughter RaShayla Miller are all students of Guy Weible. Trudie and RaShayla are beginners. Latosha is taking the second-level class.

"My daughter, since she already took the class, can guide us," said Trudie, 56, of East St. Louis. "Mother usually guides, but this time the daughter guides."

Trudie smoothed edges of wet clay squares at a back table. The stamped squares lined up in front of her like cookies on a cookie sheet. Each bore a textured design.

"Here the edge is rough," she said, picking up one. "You don't want it to be too rough. It would be sharp like a knife. We smooth it so it will be more rounded. These tiles I will use as coasters."

Guiding daughter Latosha, 40, wearing a Betty Boop apron and striped hair ribbon, worked nearby. The art major and mother of three created small bowls wth uneven tops, using a slab wrap technique, then added texture with beads. She'll fire the bowls, stain them, glaze them, and fire them again.

"Last semester, I made a vase," she said. "I have the vase on my living room table. My aim from the start is to make it usable. I have.

"I just like it all. It's all so fun. Next week, we'll start to throw (clay) on the wheel."They took a break from the hands-on work to watch their teacher demonstrate basic clay-building techniques. He attached small feet to a shallow bowl to give it height.

If you go back to the tradition of clay, it was used more for utilitarian purposes, said Guy, associate professor of art. When used in a more sculptural manner, the only thing that matters is aesthetics, or appearance.

"I don't require them to use one or the other," he said. "I require them to learn how to manipulate the material. One is doing more advanced hand-building. Granddaughter and mom are learning more basic hand-building."

Trudie uses other mediums to create when she's at home.

"I am artistic in the kitchen," said the mother of three, grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of four.

Her culinary works include sweet potato pie and pork chops.

"They love my pork chops," said Trudie.

What makes them so good?

"The seasonings," said Latosha. "They're seasoned very well, to perfection."

"I learn through trial and error," said Trudie. "I remember when I used to make sweet potato pies and you couldn't eat them. I would throw them in the trash. It's been trial and error."

She considered becoming a baker or pastry chef.

"I also wanted to be a nurse. I've been LPing for 30 years." She paused, looking around the classroom. "I never thought I'd be sitting in a class with my daughter and granddaughter."

RaShayla, 23, is a beginner like her grandmother. The mass communications major wants her art to be writing, but took the elective for fun.

"I have had classes with my mom before, not with my grandma," she said. "I thought it would be an experience. It has been."

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