MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — When Cherokee Brick Company of Macon donated six tons of their uncut clay blocks to the Grassmann Ceramic Art Studio at Georgia College, students tooled-up and stepped up to the challenge of producing works of art with the hard to manage material they were gifted.
With five pallets of 36-inch length units, students collaborated to lift, carry, stack and carve the giant bricks.
“The brick clay was different than anything we’ve ever used before — it was sandy, rough, and stiff, pretty hard to cut, but very satisfying to carve,” professor Sandra Trujillo said.
The clay dried quickly under the pressures of Georgia’s seasonal heat, so the students worked in double time using more aggressive clay processes than most were used to.
“I learned a lot within this sculpture process,” ceramics student Jacalyn Carper said. “Our class has never worked with bricks, much less leather-hard (not dry or fired) bricks before. We were responsible for creating an idea and accomplishing it within one week. These clay bricks were ready to begin drying, and quickly, so we had to learn the correct amount of time to leave them out and carve and then cover them back up before they could dry.”
Trujillo said that her students had several favorite methods that they used to create a functional art piece — helping bridge the gap between art and industry.
The Sawzall, steel scrapers, steel faceting tools, carpenter squares, a rubber mallet, blocks of wood, and their go-to treasured “Do-All” steel trimming tool from Mudtools were among their favorites.
“I believe the reason we make art is to express ourselves and things around us in a different way,” Carper said. “My partner and I created a birdhouse. This project was architectural, functional and expressive. The focus was on hospitality, and so we carved a face into our brick structure creating a welcoming vibe. I think it is important to include art in our everyday lives because it is already all around us. This art inspires us to create more art and then our art inspires others and it continues. Ideas, both creative and simply functional, are needed to discover possibilities throughout industry and business.”
Another group created a beehive sculpture.
“Our goal as a collaborative team was to create a sculpture resembling a beehive,” ceramics student Chloe Keadle said. “We were required to communicate with the Cherokee Brick Company in order to design a sculpture blending our designs and their materials.”
Once the students learned how to manage the material and collaborate to create a sculpture, their work was put on display. The group work was displayed Sept. 9 at Grassman Studio. Once shown to the public, the clay was recycled for future use.
By the end of a challenging week ceramics technician Curtis Stewardson had nearly all of the clay shavings slaking in the mixers to reclaim that iron-rich Macon clay.
For the students, the project was more than just a collaboration — it taught them that art extends beyond the studio. From the ruins of a WWII barrack to a lightbox to use with photography, the students created pieces involving more than just what they learned in their art classes.
“Art plays an important role in society,” Keadle said. “In industries, art is used to communicate ideas in advertisements, board meetings and even decorations that are appealing to employees and customers. I see this project benefitting me in the future because it taught me to investigate as I go along and not be committed to an idea before I understand how the material works.”