Detail of "Mennonite Farmer Chess Set"
    by Goshen College ceramics student,  Lenora Hirschler
    stoneware, 1997

    philosophy of life and vocation

    Thomas Aquinas defined "human" as, "a being with brains and hands. As such our greatest joy comes when we can employ both our brains and our hands simultaneously in ways which are creative, useful, and productive." Even if you don't become a professional clay artist or potter, you may discover that you do want a vocation which allows you to be a whole person in the above sense.

    Click on this thumbnail for a larger view. Use Back button to return here.

| What do we learn in this class? | Course Requirements? | Learning Tasks? |
| Grades? | Tools for clay ?  | The Instructors ?  | Calendar |
| Hints for learning to throw | Schedule | Use your Back Button to return to this list
Third Assignment - Coil Piece | Clay Study Sheet for 1st Test
Safety Hazards in Ceramics

First Assignment on the Wheel | Second Assignment - Vertical Throwing

What do we learn in this class?


You will learn minimum skills using the potter's wheel, slab building, coil building, glaze application, and firing. The first term is intended as a foundation for more specialized learning in the future.

knowledge of art

We will work at some basic questions about art. Why is art done? How does an artist come up with ideas? What are the strategies of creativity used by artists? How is art made expressive and meaningful?

knowledge of ceramics

We will cover the special qualities of the materials and processes used in ceramics. You will learn to mix clay and glazes, to fire kilns, as well as various ways to form and decorate ceramic work. Many students are able after one term to continue skill development in advanced classes or in private on a fairly independent basis.

learning in art - how it happens

We take class time to discuss student work in progress. You might also clarify your ideas by discussing your pieces with a classmate. What do your pieces say to another person? Student assistants can also be very helpful in identifying some quality in your work which you may have been unaware of.

Ask for instructor counsel. The teacher knows this is a beginning class, so don't hesitate to seek advice. If class time is too busy, ask for an appointment.

Since unfired clay can be reprocessed, you decide what to fire. Most students keep a higher percentage of their thrown pieces after mid-term when skill levels are higher. Regular practice makes a big difference in skill levels. Sculptural and handbuilt forms also get better with practice.

Course Requirements?
time on task

Regular attendance at 2 sessions per week is expected. Generally one session will be large group instruction and the other session will be production practice and individualized instruction. You are expected to spend an average of 9 hours per week on the course including class, reading, and work time. The room is open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days per week. If you need to work later you are required to have a pass to show the security guard. Student assistants will be present to help you during certain hours to be announced. What the chalkboard in the classroom for hours.


Each class session is planned to provide new information and inspiration. The worst solution is cut class if you get discouraged, busy or uninterested. Persons who cut class because they are falling behind are more apt to fail. Those who attend in spite of being discouraged generally find ways to succeed. Nothing replaces good class interaction to get revitalized and inspired. A healthy studio atmosphere grows when a group of students finds ways to challenge and help each other learn and create. Work session classes are important to practice new skills and techniques as well as get individual feedback on your work. There are no automatically excused class cuts.

production requirements

Each student brings in all the work from the term to be evaluated at the end of the term, a production (work) grade is based on only the 12 best pieces. Practice helps. Completing more than 12 pieces increases your chances of having quality work. Other factors included in your grade are explained below. top of page


Hands in Clay, by Charlotte F. Speight and John Toki, will be used as a general reference for the topics of this course as well as for advanced ceramics. Certain chapters will be assigned and tested. Familiarize yourself with its contents early in the term so you can take advantage of it as problems arise. It is well illustrated with the work of many important historical and contemporary potters and sculptors in clay. Specifically, from the book, we cover Clay, Stacking and Firing Kilns, Glaze Types, Kiln Types, Studio Equipment, and we become familiar with the work of some of the featured artists and cultures.


Clay, glaze and fuel for firing is provided within the cost of tuition up to 60 pounds of finished pottery and sculpture. You may fire more than this. However, you are billed 70 cents per pound for the excess (amount over 60 pounds) at the end of the term. Wasted materials are also billed to your account.

grading art work

You bring in all your completed work at the end of the term. Your best 12 pieces are graded to determine your work grade for the term. Here are some ways to think about quality in your work.

1. creativity --how innovative are in your work?

2. expressiveness --does the work communicate feeling and/or ideas?

3. design and aesthetics --do you consider concepts such as unity, proportion, balance, rhythm, theme with variation, etc.? Is functional work designed and crafted with the user's needs in mind? Do you care if a cup has a bottom rough enough to scratch a fine table? Do you care if piece feels no heavier than it looks, works well, has a good fitting lid and so on?

4. skill --is the work well made for its purpose, for its material, for its production process? Does the indicate control of the clay, the glaze, and the fire. Is the glaze appropriately selected and application thickness appropriate?

tests and grading

In addition to the grade on the work created (based on your 12 best works), there will be two or three short written tests and a comprehensive final which add together for about one-fourth of the course grade.
The first test covers clay and the work of some clay artists.
The second test covers stacking and firing kilns and the work of some clay artists.
The third test covers covers information about glazing, glazes, and the work of some clay artists.
A final exam is a review of material from the whole term plus new material presented in class sessions near the end of the term.
Content for the tests is taken from assignments in the text, from videos shown in class, from exhibitions, and from class presentations.

special topics/events grading

This class will participate in special Art Department Topics or Events for all art classes in September, October, and November. These will be explained as soon as plans are finalized. Expect items on a test and/or journal assignment related to each event.

learning tasks

The learning tasks are on a separate page so you can print it out and have the instructor or a class assistant initial each task as you complete it during the term.

events and field trips

Each term the Art Department supplements all art courses with required Topics and Issues in Art programs that become part of every art course. These are listed on this page . Many of these programs are video taped and and can be reviewed in the library in cases where you have a serious conflict at the time of the event. Expect to turn in a journal report and/or test questions related to Topics and Issues content.

This class has one of more field trips. Expect to turn in a journal report and/or test questions related to field trip content.

grading plan

If you feel grading would have an adverse effect on your creativity and production, you should consider the Credit/No-Credit Plan. Those who feel that they are most motivated when the reward of grades is present should consider the regular letter grade plan. You have about two weeks to make changes. Check with registrar's office or see your packet for exact date.

Last updated August 2000

This schedule is tentative and partial. Watch for updates of this page. Dates will be announced in class. Other activities may be added during the term.
______ Art Department Topics and Issues Events (attendance required)
______ Clay and clay artists quiz
______ Stacking, firing, and clay artists quiz
______ Glaze and clay artists quiz
______ Last day to make large pieces which need drying time
______ Pieces not DRY by 5 p.m. will not be bisqued
______ Pieces not GLAZED by 5 p.m. will not be fired
______ Grading appointments
______ Written final covers clay, firing, glazes, kilns, studio equipment and major clay artists.

Tools for clay?

You'll need a set of personal tools (available at the Goshen College bookstore or at a place like Neely's Ceramics west of Elkhart (on US 20, 10106 McKinley). Label the tools with your name.

Here is what you need. Click here for a picture with a list
1. An elephant ear sponge for throwing (on the wheel)
2. A potter's knife (also called a fettling knife)
3. A thin metal scraper for smoothing
4. A needle on a stick tool for cutting the top straight
5. A trimming tool (metal cutting loops on the ends of a stick)
6. A #6 bamboo brush for decorating
7. A cheap brush about 2 inches wide for coloring large areas


Marvin Bartel Home Page

Marvin Bartel has been a member of the art faculty at Goshen College since 1970. Prior to coming to Goshen he originated the ceramics curriculum in the art department and served on the art faculty at Northeast Missouri State University. He taught art at Bethel College (Kansas), and Topeka High School (Kansas). Bartel has master's and doctor's degrees in art education from the University of Kansas. He is a practicing exhibiting artist, maintaining his own ceramics studio. In addition to ceramics, Bartel teaches courses in art education, architectural design, and photography. He designs buildings, designs and builds energy efficient kilns, has a small orchard and a significant vegetable garden. During the summers he makes and installs custom ceramic tile and produces pottery and ceramic sculpture pieces; designs houses; travels; and raises fruits and vegetables. He and Delores are participants in the Eighth Street Mennonite Church congregation, Goshen. They have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.

Fred Driver
click on images for larger view
Fred Driver helps with the studio portion of ceramics, but not every semester. Fred attended Hesston College where he studied ceramics with Paul Friesen. He graduated from Goshen College with an art major with a concentration area in ceramics. He has also studied at the Mennonite Biblical Seminary and has previously helped teach ceramics at Hesston College and at Goshen College. Fred is an accomplished potter who has built several kilns including wood and gas fueled models. Fred has his own pottery production studio and business in Goshen and has been instrumental in starting the Clay Artists Guild of Goshen. He and Joyce have two elementary school boys.
| What do we learn in this class? | Course Requirements? | Learning Tasks? |
| Grades? | Tools for clay ?  | The Instructors ?  | Calendar | Task Sheet
| Hints for learning to throw | Schedule | Use your Back Button to return to this list
Third Assignment - Coil Piece | Clay Study Sheet for 1st Test
Safety Hazards in Ceramics

First Assignment on the Wheel | Second Assignment - Vertical Throwing

Back to Ceramics Class Home Page
top of page

this page updated, August 31, 2000