Anyone who walked by Willard Hall Saturday morning saw a sight unfamiliar to most: people jumping up and down, digging elbow deep on a large clay mass. Some people were even covered head-to-toe in grey dust. The spectacle was a clay stomp hosted by K-State ceramic students.
The process began the night before when a total of 60 bags of dry ingredients including clay, stabilizers and melters, each weighing 50 pounds, were combined.
“We had all of the dry materials mixed together the night before and had a pre-stomp,” Hillary Hendricks, senior in fine arts, said.
The reason for preparing the night before was to allow for some dust to settle, literally. Students skated around on a tarp covered in the dried ingredients to mix them all together and then hosed the ingredients down with water so that the dry elements could begin to break down.
“We have mixers for clay, a lot like dough mixers, that we could use to break down the particles,” Amy Santoferraro, assistant professor of art, said. “We probably could have [mixed the clay] quicker with the machines, but this makes it a public activity. We feel a responsibility to be out in the public.”
The idea to have a clay stomp was introduced to the ceramics students last year by Jared Pfeiffer, who graduated from K-State with a master in fine arts in the spring of 2013. Pfeiffer’s father, Joel, began clay stomping in the summer of 1974 because pre-mixed clay was so expensive. The term “clay stomp” is an officially registered trademark by Joel.
The goal of the clay stomp was to draw people together and in the process it created supplies for the students in the university’s lower-level ceramics courses.
“It is cool, I have been involved in ceramics 15 years of my time on Earth and I have never seen clay mixed this way,” Santoferraro said.
Santoferraro said that the clay stomp allowed for the real application and execution of the work it takes to create a clay product.
Following the stomping event, the clay was sectioned into 25 pound bags. Santofarro said that it was important to have experienced baggers so that the clay did not dry up.
Though there ended up being a couple thousand pounds of clay, it will only last the ceramic classes a portion of the fall semester. The clay will be used in both hand building and throwing clay on potter’s wheels.
“In ceramics you cannot get away from helping out,” Santoferraro said. “It does make for a tight bunch [of students] because they do not get the option to be anti-social. You always need help, things are heavy and you need help moving them and calculations [for projects] need to be double checked. It is not an independent art.”
In past weeks the ceramic students have met on Saturdays for various events. One weekend in particular the students gathered and went and cut wood to use in the wood kiln.
“We are no strangers to work,” Santoferraro said. “It is good though because it is like the real world.”
Students enrolled in ceramics classes range from a variety of majors. While a majority of the students are, in fact, art majors, there also tend to be students of veterinary medicine, dentistry and interior design. Working with clay improves hand dexterity according to Santoferraro. This can be valuable for multiple students post-graduation. A doctor stitching up a patient needs nimble fingers as does a dentist filling a cavity. Clay work can improve the hand muscles and make them more agile.
Currently on K-State’s campus, there are nearly 75 students working with clay. Six students are in graduate schools and three are in the post baccalaureate program.
One of the graduate students involved in the Clay Stomp was Lauren Karle, graduate masters in fine arts.
“Art tells stories and displays who we are and says a lot about our culture,” Karle said.
Karle said she plans to work internationally with various cultures.
“Working with art is becoming less about the object and more what we can do with an object to build the community,” Karle said. “Art is the essence of being.”
One of the main reasons the ceramicists held the clay stomp was to really work on building up their community of students.
The K-State Potter’s Guild also completed a “Cup Drop” in Dwight, Kan. The guild dropped off almost 150 handmade cups to the members of the town.
“We had tags on each of the mugs that said we just wanted to say hello in a media filled world,” Karle said. “If they wanted to say hi back they could send us an email.”