The electric tune of “Doses and Mimosas” fills the room. The atmosphere is relaxed and vibrant, with a chalkboard welcoming newcomers into the space and indie music broadcasting from speakers. As Alex Lam ’19, described, “It’s like a coffee shop but you’re making what you drink coffee out of.”
The Wilson College Ceramics Studio in 1938 Hall is an open studio ceramic work that invites everyone to engage in art. The studio boasts three electric wheels and two kickwheels, tables for hand-building, as well as a glaze area and kiln. In this place, “the creative atmosphere is palpable and viscous,” Lam noted.
In contrast to the cold and bleak New Jersey winter outside, the studio is cozy and warm. Entering the room itself is an completely sensory experience. The walls are lined with ceramics projects in various states of completion, stacked alongside a multi-color array of different glaze samples that exude the myriad of possibilities of each ceramic project. Accompanying these visual elements is the background drum, spinning pottery wheels, the sounds of hands shaping clay, and laughter floating through the air.
Lam is currently one of the student managers of the ceramics studio. According to him, the best part of working at the studio is setting his own hours. With a key of his own, on occasion he has gone in at 1 a.m. to complete projects. As tradition, Lam explained, “when people are working on the pottery wheel, I usually smear clay on their faces.” Frequent studio-goers collectively share a laugh over the practice. Although students usually work on their own individual projects, the studio still has a community atmosphere as the more seasoned ceramicists offer guidance and advice to newcomers.
The studio is open three days a week to those who anyone from all levels of experience. Camille Heubner ’20 is a regular member in the studio, usually coming in once a week. Heubner had previously worked on ceramics during arts camps and on her pottery wheel in her home garage. Coming to college, she wanted to explore the medium more, and she reportedly wrote in her Princeton housing form that she wanted to live in Wilson because of the pottery studio there.
Xavier Bledsoe ’17 is also a student manager at the studio. He discovered the ceramics studio freshman year, when he thought to himself, “Hey, I miss ceramics,” and googled the words ‘Princeton ceramics studio.' Three years later, he frequents the studio just as often as he did in his first year. Bledsoe commented, “When I’ve had a really tough assignment and finally get through it, I like to come here and throw on the pottery wheel. It’s very therapeutic.”
The business of the studio varies, from just a handful to 20-30 students at a time. Katie Schneer ’20 said that since being at Princeton, she “almost lives” in the studio. Working on projects in the space three times a week, she has her own tools as well. Her favorite part of the process is gifting, and even selling, some of her creations. According to Schneer, “The worst [part about being in the studio] is when you have an itch on your face but you have clay on your hands.” Other students who frequent the studio agreed emphatically.
As student managers, Lam and Bledsoe noted that it’s almost impossible to leave the room clean. Yet the clay residue that remains highlights great moments spent together in the studio. It is nearly impossible to leave the room without some clay on your clothes, even if you are not working on a project, These remnants of each project evoke warm memories and a sense of community in the space.