Hurricane Harvey tried – but failed – to destroy the ceramics program at Lone Star College-Kingwood.
“We lost everything,” said Cory Cryer, professor of art and “Chief Ceramics Guru” at the Kingwood campus. “The ceramics studio was housed in one of the several buildings that were flooded.”
After the flood, Cryer had a week to figure out what to do.
“Fortunately, our sister campuses took us in last fall,” she said, “and now we’ve relocated to Lone Star’s Atascocita Center on Lake Houston Parkway.”
Accommodations at the Atascocita Center are temporary. Ceramics buffs would never let a little natural disaster get in the way of their passion – “throwing” a bowl or mug.
Ceramics returns to the Kingwood campus next January. In the meantime, Cryer continues to instruct beginners as well as “students” who have been throwing for 15 years or more.
“Ceramics can be taken for credit for students pursuing a degree or certificate,” said Cryer, “or classes can be taken as a continuing education course for members of our Lake Houston community.”
Cryer is well versed in the visual arts. She earned her master’s in fine arts degree with a focus in ceramics from Texas Women’s University. She is a 12-year instructor at Lone Star-Kingwood.
Why take a ceramics course?
“Working with clay can be very calming,” said Cryer. “My students tell me classes serve as ‘therapy.’ Working with clay forces you to focus your attention in a manner so that you’re surprised to find an hour has passed.”
Cryer is convinced that there is satisfaction from holding, using and sharing something created from a ball of materials from the earth.
Students also get a great deal of satisfaction from the diversity of skills, culture and life experiences that they’ll discover when they take a class.
“I love hearing a young student taking class for credit explaining 3D printing to a more mature, continuing education student,” said Cryer. “While they’re both glazing their pieces, the mature student asks the younger student who’s paying for their car when the younger student complains about having to do yard work all weekend.”
Lone Star-Kingwood ceramics students are motivated, too. Cryer’s students have participated in Empty Bowls-Houston since it was organized. Ceramics artists throughout Houston create one-of-a-kind festive bowls that are purchased to benefit the Houston Food Bank. Her students also participate in Lone Star-Kingwood’s annual Hunger Banquet benefit.
“A couple of our continuing education students have started ‘Pottery for Prevention,’ an event that raises money for cancer research,” Cryer said.
Two ceramics classes are held at Lone Star-Kingwood. Ceramics I is an introduction, emphasizing the historical and cultural significance of ceramic arts and teaching ceramics construction methods and firing processes.
“Students learn the basic hand-building techniques, get an introduction to the potter’s wheel, and learn decorating techniques,” said Cryer. “This semester, they’re making cell phone amplifiers, rainsticks and wheel-thrown bowls.”
Students in Ceramics II learn more advanced techniques and the creative possibilities of clay, glazes and firing procedures.
Summer classes are six weeks long, meeting Monday through Thursday. Fall and spring classes are 16 weeks long and meet twice a week.
Besides being “good therapy,” ceramics classes, Cryer believes, will deepen a person’s appreciation for the visual arts.
“When you watch a skilled craftsperson at work, they make it look so easy,” she said. “Experiencing this process first hand, you’ll suddenly gain a new appreciation for the process and the amount of work that goes into making a bowl that you use to eat your cereal.”
When Cryer’s students go to an art festival, they understand why the mug they want to buy from an artist costs $40.
While she’s looking forward to moving back home to Lone Star’s Kingwood campus, Cryer would like to continue promoting the benefits of ceramics classes at the Atascocita campus.
“I would love to have enough community interest that we can stay in Atascocita, too,” she said.
“We are surrounded by objects and items made from clay,” Cryer said. “Everything from our toilets to our dishes, even our medicine – Kaopectate―and makeup!”