FoC: Wheel Exploration Syllabus

For all Nick’s contact information, office hours, and office number go to his ABOUT PAGE.

FINAL: Wednesday, May 5 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM


This course will concentrate in the functional and sculptural practices in ceramic artwork made on the potter’s wheel and incorporating mixed methods of construction to this process. Investigations into the purpose, concept and creation of vessel and sculpture oriented forms in ceramics with emphasis on artistic intention, context, and craft. Historical and contemporary approaches are explored in research assignments and related to contemporary global practices and culture. Experience with ceramic technology (mixing clay bodies, glaze mixing, kiln firing) evolves as students take their work through the physical stages of the ceramic process.


  • Introduce students to the artistic medium of ceramics through a concentrated experience in wheel thrown construction processes incorporating pinch, slab, coil, extruded, and mold created components.
  • Familiarize students with wheel-thrown vessel forms made by artists and craftspeople in ancient societies and relate them to contemporary global practices and culture.
  • Consider both utilitarian and sculptural forms created on the potter’s wheel in relation to conceptual intention.
  • Consider the role of artist/craftsperson in the twenty-first century.
  • Become familiar with clay mixing and glaze and surface material, mixing, application techniques, and kiln firing procedures.
  • Demonstrate understanding of safe and healthful ceramics studio practices.
  • Produce a sketchbook and digital catalog of ideas and concepts related to this course.
  • Digitally document the body of ceramic work that relates to the forms and ideas considered in the course.


  • Tool packet (bookstore)
  • 2 gallon minimum PLASTIC BUCKET
  • An idea log to take notes on lectures, readings, document assignment requirements, and make sketches.
  • PLASTIC (i.e. drycleaner bags, trash bags, but NO Hannaford bags)
  • A metal fork

Studio Practice

  • Have a notebook/ idea log for assignments, notes, and lectures at all times.
  • Projects are due on the assigned date to make it in the kiln and make critique.
  • Participate, it counts towards your grade.
  • CLEAN YOUR AREA BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE ROOM. If you spill or dump anything make sure to clean it up asap. SEE HEALTH & HAZARD section.
  • You are responsible for missed work. If you miss or do not complete a project a ZERO is being figured into your grade.
  • Be respectful of other people’s ideas and opinions.
  • No food in the studio.
  • Practice respectful phone usage. The cell phone is a useful tool and we may use them from time to time. However, if there is a special situation and you have to answer your cell please do so while exiting the classroom.
  • Personal music players are not allowed until after six weeks into the semester and at that time they will be allowed with ONE earplug only. There is a stereo that you are encouraged to play music on for the class.     

Covid-19 Studio Sign up:  

There is a requirement that students work a minimum of 2 hours of studio time outside of class per week. The studios are open from 8am-11pm and are available to you whenever class is not in session. Sign up in ½ hour blocks to reserve your spots. You can do this two ways:   

  1. Reserve your spot in advance using the URL here or the QR code on the door of the room; 
  2. Take a chance and just show up at the Studio and hope there is a spot for you (6 Students at any one time MAX!).  If you do this, use the URL or QR code to sign up when you arrive so that we have a record of your attendance, which is required for the course and which helps with contact tracing for COVID.  

Tips for signing up: 

  • To sign up for slots, scan the QR code on the door of the studio, or just visit this link: (
  • Scroll down the sheet until you get to the bottom where the WEEKS are listed and select the week you’re looking to sign up for. 
  • Want to sign up for regular blocks throughout the semester? Go ahead! Good planning strategy!  
  • Areas darkened out are class times and not available for signup. 
  • Sign up with your friends if you want to work together!
  • Make sure you sign up before entering the room! 
  • IF you decide to roll the dice and show up without reserving a spot in advance, you can only sign up and enter IF THERE ARE LESS THAN 6 PEOPLE IN THE ROOM AND AN OPEN SPOT ON THE SIGN UP SHEET. There is a maximum of 6 people in this studio at a time and you MUST BE SIGNED IN to use the studio! People who have signed up on the sheet get priority when they arrive. If there are 6 people signed up and only 5 in the room, you can go in and work until that sixth person arrives and then, because they reserved the spot, you will need to leave.  Please make this an easy and comfortable arrangement for everyone! 
  • Unfortunately, due to space limitations, people not enrolled in courses are not allowed in the studios this semester.   


  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth at all times for the safety of you and those you work with in the classroom.
  • Please use the designated entrance and exits for the room to keep social distancing at a maximum.
  • Please consider there can be no sharing of tools or materials to contain any potential Covid-19 outbreaks. All materials and tools will need to be marked and stored accordingly.
  • Universally used equipment such as rolling pins, the slab roller, spray bottles, and other items will need to be wiped down after each use with disinfecting wipes located near the equipment location or storage area.
  • Sinks: there are 7 available sinks in the rooms of the ceramics studio and exterior bathrooms. Please keep to one person per sink when cleaning up to leave. If you come in outside class time you will also need to use the same sink.
  • Assigned seating: on the first day of class you will be choosing the seat you sit in for the semester. Please sit in that seat for Face to Face (F2F) class times.
  • All items below need to be marked with:
    • your name/initials
    • fall 2020
  • Lockers: Small lockers are available near the exit to the studio. Please leave purses, backpacks, and other personal items outside the classroom as both fire code and safety measure require this. You will need to supply your own lock if you need one.
  • Studio Storage: You will have designated studio shelving for storing your work and tools.
  • Buckets: you will each receive a bucket to keep clay scraps in that you will in time recycle. Please mark your bucket with.
  • Plastic bag: you will be given a large plastic bag to keep your work from drying out too quickly.
  • Plastic cup: this cup will be used to hold water or slip for making connections between two pieces of clay
  • Clay: We will be working with Red Earthenware clay and you will be given 25 lbs. MAKE SURE TO:
    • keep your clay wrapped up and on your shelves when not in use
    • keep track of the clay you might not be using by putting it back in the bag or in your recycle bucket


I will demonstrate the safe use of materials and equipment throughout the semester. Please pay close attention and take notes.

Dry materials=itchy lungs. Itchy lungs are bad. There are toxic ceramic materials that should not be ingested or inhaled in the clay lab. Do not eat in the ceramics lab. Make sure to wear gloves and a respirator when mixing materials in the glaze room and a mask in the clay mixing room. Always wear a dust mask/respirator to protect your lungs from silica dust.  You will be given a mask at the beginning of the semester so keep it in a plastic ziplock in you locker. Additional masks are available but try not to increase the waste stream already leaving the studio.

            For this same reason you need to keep the studio clean.  DO NOT use a broom or dust brush to sweep off tables or the floor. Always use a wet sponge to clean off surfaces.

Kilns=fire&heat. Be careful when maneuvering around kilns and assume they are hot. DO NOT unload a kiln if it is over 150 F. YOU know the work you’re unloading from a kiln is hot but the next person will not. Burns are bad. (continued next page)

Claymixer can = fingers minus 1or 2. When mixing clay make sure to wear a mask to avoid itchy lung. The mixer is a fairly safe rig but there is always room for error. Long hair and loose clothing are always best tied back. DO Not put arms, hands, or tools in a running machine!

Grinder=glaze in the eye. The grinder is a tool to be used with goggles and gloves AT ALL TIMES. If I catch you using the “blink” method.

  • Information for Students Using Respirators
  • Wear a respirator when working in the glaze mixing, clay mixing, and dry material room.
    • Respirators are an effective method of protection against designated hazards when properly selected and worn. Respirator use is encouraged, even when exposures are below the exposure limit, to provide an additional level of comfort and protection for workers. However, if a respirator is used improperly or not kept clean, the respirator itself can become a hazard to the worker. Sometimes, workers may wear respirators to avoid exposures to hazards, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the limits set by OSHA standards. If your employer provides respirators for your voluntary use, or You need to take certain precautions to be sure that the supplied respirator does not present a hazard. You should do the following:
  • Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirators limitations.
    • Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.
  • Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which your respirator is not designed to protect against. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect you against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes or smoke.
  • Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else’s respirator. [63 FR 1152, Jan. 8, 1998; 63 FR 20098, April 23, 1998]
  • Wear nitrile gloves when mixing, applying or cleaning up glaze materials.any container with a mixed material (slip, glaze, wash) must be marked with recipe and year mixed.

         There will be quizzes covering materials, tools, and the firing process.

ADA Requirements

  • Plymouth State University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you should contact Campus Accessibility Services (CAS), located in Speare (535-3300) to determine whether you are eligible for such accommodations. Academic accommodations will only be considered for students who have registered with CAS. If you have authorized CAS to electronically deliver a Letter of Accommodations for this course, please communicate with your instructor to review your accommodations.

Art Department Policy on Unclaimed Artwork

Any student participating in a studio course in the Art Department at PSU is responsible for removing from the premises the artwork he/she creates in that class at the end of the course. Any artwork left behind by a student from a course at the end of the semester will be saved or disposed of at the discretion of the instructor or Program Coordinator. The  Art Department cannot ensure safety, conservation, or appropriate storage of work. If the artwork is saved, it will be used as a teaching resource for future classes.

Any artwork that is in a departmentally endorsed or sponsored exhibit and which is unclaimed by the artist at the end of that exhibit will be retained by the department for a period of 6 months. However, during this time, the Art Department cannot ensure safety, conservation, or appropriate storage of work. At the end of  30 days, the work will be reviewed by a departmental vetting committee to determine if the artwork will be retained or discarded. If the artwork is retained, it will be used as a teaching resource and Images of that artwork will be used for any public relations purposes as the Department and University see fit.


There are five parts to every assignment.

1. With each new project assignment you will be required to express and articulate your ideas before you start. Project ideas don’t have to be sketches. Look for intriguing images or surfaces and try to bring that energy to your ideas. I need to know your ideas to ensure that you don’t try something beyond your capabilities or that doesn’t lend itself to the ceramic process.

2. Make the piece

3. Working critique- These are as important as the final crit. Working crits allow you to ask questions from the group as you are working and get suggestions. They allow me to see your progress and document that you are using your time efficiently with the deadline of the final crit in mind.

4. We will look at and “critique” the projects as a group. Critiques will always take place at the start of class.

5. Create an Eport post about your project.


PROJECTS final project grades avg5-650
mid semester and final along with attendance210
QUIZZESaveraged together4-510
WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTSblog posts on Eport3-41O
PRESENTATION5-8 minute presentation on an artist of your choosing that relates to the work being done in class15
EPORTproject and blog post assignments 5-615


Participation is counted as asking questions, critique input, helping others, and general group interactions. There will be readings that we will discuss in class and your input will be documented. As the instructor I want the group to work well together and everybody needs to do their part. Group responsibilities will be a large part of this as well and include loading and unloading class work from the kilns, mixing batches of clay in teams, testing and mixing glazes, and studio maintenance/ cleanliness. I will demonstrate each one of these activities and am always glad to give pointers afterwards. The best way to learn is by doing. These group responsibilities will be noted on an individual basis and count towards the participation portion of your grade. Due to the materials we use and the fact that we’re making work from dry and dust materials the studio needs to be KEPT CLEAN. “I’m just messy when I work.” is not acceptable. Cleaning up after yourself has nothing to do with how you work.

Approach regards how you approach this course. I’m a practicing visual artist and educator helping students investigate what they have a passion or interest in and help them convey their ideas visually. Practice mutual respect with your fellow classmates, myself, and the subject matter we discuss.

Mix materials, help with firings
Participate in critique
Reads assignments & participates in discussions
Cleans work area
Mix materials, help with firings
Participate in critique
Reads assignments & participates in discussions
Cleans work area
Mix materials, help with firings
Participate in critique
Reads assignments & participates in discussions
Cleans work area
Mix materials, help with firings
Participate in critique
Reads assignments & participates in discussions
Cleans work area
Mix materials, help with firings
Participate in critique
Reads assignments & participates in discussions
Cleans work area

Attendance & Tardiness

             Attendance will be taken at the start of each class. If you’re late tell me or it will count as an absence.Be on time and stay for the entirety of class time or get marked down. One unexcused absence will be allowed. After this absence your final grade will drop 2 points per unexcused absence. There will be academic consequences for every absence deemed unexcused after 1.

The PSU college catalog states:

“Student absences are defined as excused or unexcused. Unexcused absences are those that occur without adequate reason. Unexcused absences may be used in the computation of grades.

Excused absences are defined as absences stemming from (a) participation in University sponsored activities and (b) compelling and extenuating circumstances beyond a student’s control…. Instructors have the right to determine when the number of excused absences exceeds a reasonable limit to the extent that it significantly interferes with a student’s satisfactory mastery of course content/skills.”

 For my class an excused absence MUST BE DOCUMENTED with written documentation from the providing authority. If an absence coincides with a quiz you will be required to take the quiz asap. If an absence coincides with a crit there needs to be ample reason. In either instance contact me prior to make arrangements. Constant tardiness or leaving class early is noted and will negatively impact your final grade.

Optimize class time and make sure to have all required materials or you won’t be able to work (i.e., clay, tools or other required materials). If you cannot work you will be dismissed. If you are dismissed it will count as an absence. If you are tardy it will be noted and accumulated over the semester and count towards absences.


All grades will be handled through Moodle. Make sure to sign into the course regularly to keep updated on projects, assignments and deadlines. As the instructor I am able to email your PSU address through Moodle and will do that from time to time. 


Eport posts will be assigned as blog posts and projects. For each written assignment there will be a rubric for grading. Project posts should be:

  • Organized, well written, and clear
  • Informational on what the objectives for the project were so outside viewers know
  • Include:
    • idea sketches
    • reference images
    • images of created works and steps in the process
    • a reflective element.
      • What did you accomplish?
      • What were the objectives for the project?
      • What do you need to work on?