First Day of (Art) School

by Lia
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Featured photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash


As part of my gap year plan to follow my curiosity and cultivate my creativity, I recently registered for a ceramics program at a local art school — and I had my first day of class last week! I’ve always wanted to take a studio art class, and when I learned about the art school at The Contemporary Austin, I knew this would be the perfect time to try my hand(s) at ceramics. 🤲⚱️

The Contemporary Austin is an art museum with two locations, one in downtown Austin on Congress Avenue and another at Laguna Gloria, which sits on Lake Austin. The art school studios are located on the 14-acre Laguna Gloria campus, which is the former home of Texas businesswoman and philanthropist Clara Driscoll (“Savior of the Alamo”). The Driscoll Villa houses exhibitions and is surrounded by an incredible sculpture garden that showcases pieces from world-renowned artists such as Ai Wei Wei.

The school was built on Laguna Gloria site because, according to The Contemporary, it is “a natural setting conducive to the creation of art.” I couldn’t agree more!

Our studios have direct access to the outdoors, and we encourage you to explore the grounds while working on class projects. Our goal is to foster your creativity, enhance your visual awareness, and improve your technical skills in your chosen medium. Our small classes increase your interactions with our credentialed and talented faculty members.

The Contemporary
The Contemporary Art School at Laguna Gloria // © 2019 Lia Ballentine

The “Beginning Ceramics” class I’m taking lasts for seven weeks. I meet once a week for four hours, but I get the benefit as a student of working on my projects during open studio time — of which there is plenty. I intend to take advantage of the open studio schedule, and my hope is spend at least two full days during the week learning to work with clay.

On the first day of class, we had an introduction to the clay and learned about hand building by making a couple of pinch pots. (Not as simple as I thought!) I learned how to wedge clay, make a slab, and use forms to shape the slabs. I also learned how to make bisque stamps to add texture and design to my work. (I have hundreds of stamps designs in mind already.) We’ll be getting into wheel throwing later on, but I love that we’re not rushing to get there. I’ve heard that some ceramics classes go straight to the wheel; however, I’m glad to spend time building by hand. Walk before you run, right?

I can’t express how excited I am to finally be doing this. I’m so happy to be learning something new, and I’m especially grateful that I have this opportunity to create something with my hands. I’ll be posting pics of my works in progress and my finished pieces (whenever I get there), so stay tuned!

My classroom for the next few weeks! // © 2019 Lia Ballentine

P.S. After my first day of school, I created a new Pinterest board for ceramics inspiration. Check it out here: https://www.pinterest.com/liaballentine/ceramics/.

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