How do you teach a pottery class on Zoom? You get creative.
During the lockdown Kathy King, director of the Ceramics Program in Harvard’s Office for the Arts, wanted to develop engaging content for potters unable to visit the program’s Allston studio. So, she called her friends at the Harvard Art Museums.
The resulting adult-community course — a blend of art history and hands-on, albeit virtual, instruction — brought some items from the museums’ collections to life. For eight weeks this summer King, along with master potter Denny McLaughlin, an instructor in the program, and numerous museums curators and art conservators examined a range of works, studying their history, and demonstrating the different clay potting and sculpting methods used in their creation, some dating back centuries.
“It’s so exciting to realize at the end of the day that the same techniques, created through time and different cultures with this one material, are so similar,” said King.
The course was a hit with local potters and with potters from Canada, South Africa, Finland, Europe, the United States, and beyond. The remote students set up makeshift studios in their kitchens, basements, or backyards and tuned in to listen to curators discuss a sampling of Harvard’s porcelain treasures, and to watch over Zoom as McLaughlin re-created them in the studio.
Then, it was their turn.