Richmond Ceramic Workshop (RCW) proposes to be a sustainable, community-based ceramics studio in Richmond, California with the aim of teaching local at-risk youth a variety of ceramic techniques including hand-building, wheel construction, glaze chemistry, and ceramics design skills. Central to RCW’s mission is to help build youth self-esteem and to provide an environment for developing a relationship between creativity and responsibility. Structured as a consecutive three-year afterschool program, the RCW will lead cohorts of select local youth, between 15 to 18 years old, with the ultimate aim of nurturing both vocational and higher education opportunities.
Fundamental to the RCW is the idea of community. On the one hand community is embodied in the instruction and creative practice of the workshop through participants’ collective responsibility and group collaboration in the production of ceramics. On the other hand, community also emerges through each individual participant’s responsibility to his/herself through the development of technical ceramic skills, individual creative practice, personal work ethic, and business acumen. Collective practice and group collaboration is further embodied within the workshop through youth mentorship between advanced and incoming cohort years. In addition to individual ceramic projects, all participants will work together to create an annual collective design of flatware that will be sold at seasonal pottery sales and whose proceeds will be channeled directly into youth education funds and sustaining the workshop.
At-risk youth participants will benefit in several ways from participation in the RCW three-year program. Importantly, through creative practice youth will build self- esteem. Beginning in the first year participants will learn technical ceramic and design skills that allow them to develop a personal ceramic practice by their third year, culminating in a final exhibition and pottery sale. Ceramics is communal by its very nature, requiring those involved work closely together in a group studio, and encouraging participants to actively engage in a practice of community building. Furthermore, RCW youth participants will acquire a range of new skill sets—from ceramic design and production techniques to leadership and business acumen—that will provide a foundation for vocational training, higher education, and/or future career goals.
Richmond historically has an interesting history with ceramics. During the early part of the 20th century Richmond dredged clay deposits from its shorelines to create bricks for buildings in the Bay Area. The Brickyard Cove Condominiums located near Point Richmond still houses one of the beehive kilns used to fire these bricks. Richmond is a city that has seen its share of tough times and in the recent economic circumstance arguably no section of the community has been more affected than its youth. With higher than average high school dropout rates and significant youth crime, Richmond youth face incredible challenges. RCW will work to address some of these challenges for a select number of Richmond youth by providing them with the opportunity to develop their own creative voice, self-discipline, and agency while working in the incredibly pliant and historic medium of ceramics.
Through the RCW three-year afterschool program youth will not only develop skills in functional ceramics and insight into design, but in doing so will be exposed to multiple career possibilities. In all three years of participation, youth will receive ceramic instruction and mentorship from local potters and ceramic artists.
First Year Training + Responsibilities:
The first year involves intensive training in ceramics starting with basic slab construction and ending with instruction in wheel throwing techniques. Youth will produce small-scale works of their own design that emerge from a variety of skills acquired over the course of the first year, and will assist in making the annual collective flatware. Responsibilities include maintaining the shop and attending lectures on craft history
Second Year Training + Responsibilities:
In the second year instruction and mentorship continues, with an emphasis on the development of an individual creative voice. Students are introduced to aspects of ceramic science and basic glaze chemistry. Responsibilities at this level increase and include loading and unloading kilns, mixing of glazes, participating in RCW seasonal sales, and working to assist third year ceramic students with their final exhibition.
Third Year Training + Responsibilities:
In the third year the cohort essentially becomes the ceramic leadership team, setting the pace within the workshop itself. This includes working with the RCW staff to determine the annual collective design of production flatware, and leading first and second year cohorts in its production. Receiving small individual studio spaces, the third year cohort sits down individually with ceramic instructors to work out both technical and conceptual development of their work towards creating their final exhibition. Studio visits to local ceramicists will assist in providing a 360-degree view of professional ceramic practice. Responsibilities include assisting instructors in first and second year classes, firing kilns, and taking one-day workshops in subjects such as basic business development and accounting.
As the RCW three-year program is comparable to an afterschool program, the location of the workshop will be easily accessible to the youth as well as potential consumers of the ceramics produced by the workshop. At present potential sites have been identified as possible locations for the RCW. All potential sites are accessible by public transportation, have zoning and square footage appropriate for ceramic production, and are nearby to recent commercial development in Richmond (e.g. Ford Plant – participates in commercial revitalization of the city).
Workshop Sustainability / Ceramics Production + Sales
Key to the RCW’s long-term sustainability is to offset costs through proceeds from ceramic sales. All ceramic sold by the RCW will be divided between two spheres: a percentage would go for the upkeep of the studio itself; the remaining amount would go towards college education or vocational training funds for the youth participants.
As annual RCW collective flatware lines are developed, they will be marketed to local businesses, organizations, and non-profits. For example, a local restaurant may wish to use RCW flatware, both because of its high-level of quality as well as its connection to the city of Richmond and its youth. The collective flatware lines will be designed and produced annually by all participants of the RCW. Annual collective flatware lines will also be sold, alongside individual youth projects, at seasonal sales.