We got wet ‘n wild this Friday in the Ceramics Studio by Lake Lagunita. Mattias Lanas (senior, Biology) gave the group the run of the studios after dark, and we explored clay as a prototyping material and as an art form. We began with a simple “utensil activity” from the Product Design curriculum, so that we all got a chance to get our hands dirty in a design state-of-mind.
We split into pairs to begin interviews about each others’ favorite foods. By asking simple questions, we hoped flesh out a better sense of our user’s habits. Each of us traded five-minute turns, so that the group could gain empathy before our brainstorm. Then, we formulated our insight as a statement:
“ user needs to enact a verb in a world where a unique situation occurs .”
With this statement in mind, we created a huge profusion of prototypes. Designers molded, sculpted, twisted and rolled to show each other ideas for possible solutions to the problem. After a short period of time, the group chose one model to instantiate as a prototype for the user. Clay made a fantastic prototyping material for bigger solutions, but tended to get finicky at small sizes. Still, the designers took pride in testing their prototypes for their users; soon, the entire table was all smiles at the new utensils.
We spent the second half of workshop learning traditional ceramics from Mattias. He demonstrated a short recipe for a two-handed bowl, and introduced the potter’s wheel to us as a tool. With smooth motions and the rotary whirl of the wheel, Mattias guided a lump of clay into a small, grapefruit-sized bowl. With the slice of a wire, Mattias pulled the pot open to reveal the contours of its cross-section. It was a study in what we were about to attempt for ourselves.
With Mattias on-hand to help, each student a wedged piece of clay to their own wheel. Within minutes, the air filled with grunts of delight and disappointment as some lumps began to take shape. “Cone up, mound down,” Mattias instructed, often helping each designer steady their arms against their knees. By the end of an hour, several of us had a bowl we were proud of, and set it aside to be trimmed, glazed and fired for use.