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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Inside the Arts: Students sculpt accessible art space in Ceramics Studio

The Student Ceramics Studio, attached to the South Campus loggia, holds open hours several times a week for both amateur and experienced student ceramicists to throw and sculpt free of charge. Photo by Alexandra Fontana.

The next time you’re trekking down the South Campus loggia on your way to Burling on a Tuesday night, stop by the Student Ceramics Studio nestled between Haines and James Halls. This year, the studio holds ten open studio hours per week, free of charge for all Grinnell students. For seasoned ceramicists and newcomers alike seeking a calm, creative and welcoming environment to let off steam and play around with some clay, there’s no better space on campus.

The studio is open to all students, regardless of whether they have prior experience with ceramics. Studio manager Ethan Huelskamp ’20 explains, “[During open studio hours] we have a student here who knows how to do ceramics, who knows the space, so if a student needs help, or has a question or … if you’ve never touched a lump of clay before and are like, ‘I want to learn how to throw,’ you can come in and our student staff member can instruct you how to do it.”

Of course, experienced ceramicists are welcome too. “If you come in and you do know what you’re doing … then you’re free to just do it as you see fit,” said Huelskamp.

Huelskamp has been a monitor at the Ceramics Studio since his first year and became the studio manager last year. As an anthropology and biology double major, he’s found a place to channel his passion for ceramics outside of academics at the studio.

In fact, the ceramics studio is entirely independent from the studio art department. Funded by Student Affairs, it is a space run for students, by students. It’s meant to be a fun, low-pressure creative space for anyone interested in developing their clay skills. The shelves are filled with sculptures, bowls, vases, plates and much more.

Rose Caplan ’21, a monitor at the studio, believes it provides a creative haven amid the academic pressures of Grinnell.

“At Grinnell, we’re exercising our minds so much … I think there’s something so calming about having your hands in some clay and getting to do something that’s really tactile and physical,” she said.

“A lot of people at Grinnell like making art and having a space like this where they can just come together and not necessarily feel the pressure of achieving in a studio art setting,” Caplan said.

“Also, clay smells good.”

For Hannah Agpoon ’22, going to the ceramics studio is an essential respite from her weekend workload.

“I just love ceramics. I did it in high school and I miss it,” she said. “It’s such a relaxing space, and it’s such a nice way to take a study break, do something creative, make something with your hands.”

Referring to the two kilns and the abundance of materials available at the studio, Agpoon said, “It’s crazy that they have all this stuff available to us. Not a lot of people use it, but they should.”

During his time at the ceramics studio, Huelskamp says he has never done a showcase of the work made in the studio, but he hopes that will change soon.

“We’re attempting this year to curate a show with [the Smith Gallery,]” he said. Huelskamp’s vision includes cookie jars—lots of them. After finding a book online about ceramic cookie jars, he wants student ceramicists to make their own and hold a show.

As in the past, the studio will give students the option of paying a fee for 24/7 access to the space, in addition to open studio hours. Students interested in receiving news, updates, and information about upcoming events can email

Open hours at the studio are Sundays 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesdays 7 to 10 p.m., Thursdays 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays 12 to 3 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 28, the ceramics studio will be holding a Family Weekend event from 12 to 2 p.m., where students and their families can come glaze forgotten pieces left behind from past years.

Hannah Agpoon ’22, frequent user of the Student Ceramics Studio, poses with some of the mugs, plates, vases and other projects she’s made.


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