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Class explores creativity through clay and makerspace technologies

Arts and Communications students attend a workshop at the Johnson Atelier in Hamilton Township to work with Lugo. March 5, 2024. Photo by Nate Johnson.

Ravenna Gemignani, a senior interactive multimedia major, who is typically drawn to the digital canvas, has recently found herself immersed in the tactile world of clay. She navigates the pottery wheel, shaping the malleable substance into forms both familiar and unpredictable. Gemignani, who is initially hesitant to step outside her comfort zone, discovers the thrill of uncertainty and the joy of creating something wholly unique with her own hands.

This semester, Gemignani and students taking Designing with Clay and Makerspace Technologies are gaining  a comprehensive introduction to designing with clay and utilizing ceramic techniques in TCNJ’s own Makerspace while making real world connections through guest artist presentations and field experiences. 

Associate Professor of Printmaking Marchelo Vera and Associate Professor of Design and Creative Technology John Kuiphoff are teaching the new and innovative course designed to foster creativity and allow students to have hands-on experiences through project-based learning. Vera and Kuiphoff worked together to pilot the course with funding they received from a TCNJ Academic Innovation Award led by Professor and Coordinator of Art Education Lisa LaJevic.

Students explore different art making processes to create their own designs using a range of equipment, including 3D printers, power tools and laser cutters in the makerspace, and a 3D ceramic printer, purchased through the grant that will be loaned to Johnson Digital Atelier (which shares a campus with Grounds For Sculpture) later this summer.

“Typically, I am someone who prefers making digital art than traditional art, but the pottery wheel pushes me to do something out of my comfort zone. I never know what the final piece will look like in the beginning of the process, but as I shape the clay, it forms unexpected twists and turns that make the piece unique,” Gemignani said.  

The course has opened opportunities for students to connect with professional artists on-campus and in the field. The class recently visited the Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, NJ, where they observed artist Roberto Lugo work on a piece in the studio using the 3D ceramic printer. Students and faculty of the course will be making another visit to work with Lugo at the end of April. 

Photo by Red Oliveira ’24

Artist Taekyeom Lee, a leader in the field of ceramic printing and award-winning designer, educator and maker visited the class and demonstrated a new method of design through 3D printed typography. He taught the class about 3D ceramic printing, combining clay and technology to create a ceramic vessel. The class also welcomed artist and art educator Matthew Pembleton, who taught the class about kiln usage and the process of glazing. 

This summer, two students will continue their pursuits in the world of artmaking and apply the skills they learn in this course in a professional setting through two paid summer internships at the Johnson Atelier.

“Our partnership with the Johnson Atelier enables us to teach our students about cutting edge processes in art-making. Just as critical, time at the Atelier introduces them to the concept that it can take a multidisciplinary team of artists and designers, but also engineers and project managers and business managers to make large scale and often public works,” explained School of the Arts and Communication Dean Pamela Barnett. “I want our creative students to know that there are surprising places to go with their knowledge and skills.” 

Vera believes in the importance of integrating artistic disciplines to equip students with practical competencies and this course aims to prepare students for their respective future careers in artmaking. 

“Overall, the course is thoughtfully designed to empower students with hands-on experiences that transcend traditional boundaries, fostering a deep appreciation for the intersection of design, technology, and craft. These experiences equip students with technical skills and a sense of creativity, innovation, and flexibility essential for success in their future careers,” he said. 

Ryanne McShafferty, a senior graphic design major, describes the course as an intriguing mix between makerspace technology and ceramics that lets students exercise creative freedom by combining art mediums and techniques and bringing in outside expertise. 

“I’m looking forward to continuing to absorb such expansive knowledge in the name of creation and applying it to my work outside of class,” McShafferty said. 

– Leah Cruz ’26


School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628


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