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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


By Terry de Bardelaben

As an educator, I understand the drive that propels the pursuit of knowledge. I bear witness to my students’ quest for information and I see it in my self. The learning process is an infinite cycle and it is increasingly clear to me that one cannot impart knowledge that one does not possess.

My cumulative Ceramics’ educational training helped me to expedite the learning process for my students. One of my curriculum goals was to have the students draw a connection between the hand building and pottery techniques they learn in class to those employed by peoples from around the globe. Beginning ceramic students are asked to research traditional firing techniques of indigenous people. Their investigation provides a framework for appreciating cultural traditions and visual aesthetics and thereby acts as a foundational backdrop for expressing their own individual creative ideas through clay. Inevitably, students’ discover parallel ancient firing practices, which are then compared and contrasted with their modern adaptations. Ultimately they understand the benefit of interpreting and communicating a shared and common visual language. They are required to participate in a learning model that places research, historic data, construction, and individual creative interpretation as a core pedagogical teaching tool. Fundamentally, our students appreciate the universality of art and ultimately the celebration and value of art in our community.

In September of 2005, I read an article in Ceramic Art and Perception, which featured the ceramic sculptural forms of Trisha Bishop. The writer highlighted the technical training she received in Italy studying under Giovanni Cimatti. I goggled his name and discovered that he is “ continually interested in the relationship between form and surface, resulting in a new variety of techniques in terra sigillata and raku, among others”.[1]

I immediately established contact with Giovanni with the hope of learning more about his curriculum. This information inspired me to go on my own journey to Italy.

I have always been interested in a process called Terra sigillata or sealed earth. “Terra sigillata is a very smooth, lustrous coating of clay, which resembles a glaze and is virtually waterproof. The name means sealed earth and has been used to refer to the Classical Greek Attic black-figure and red-figure painted pottery.

The silkiness and shine of terra sigillata is due to the plate like shape of the clay particles and the use of only the smallest particles. Polishing this surface with your hand or a soft cloth lines up all the clay 'plates' and gives the surface its shine. [2]

My APT summer grant allowed me to continue my own exploration of terra sigillata. In July 2006, I headed to Certaldo, Italy to study with master ceramicist Giovanni Cimatti. His Dolce Raku course was being taught at La Meridiana, the International Center of Ceramic Art in Tuscany.

Sixteen brave women traveled from all over the world and converged upon the restored 13th century farmhouse. Our twelve-hour workdays were primarily spent in the studio workshop. The course curriculum was comprised of demonstrations, lectures, and production time for individual creativity.

My journey forced me to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers, which potentially hinder and possibly impede communication. This was possible because of the enormous effort expended by all of the workshop participants. Kindness, good will, and good intention replaced frustration - a natural consequence of language differences. Collectively we translated and otherwise negotiated five languages: French, Italian, German, Spanish, and English. Multiple languages and communication styles were employed to foster communication and establish understanding. On rare occasion, we resorted to the universal language of sign and gesture. However daily, we set out on a creative journey that stretched our individual and collective talents.

Daily, Giovanni provided demonstrations of hand building and wheel throwing techniques together with the history and theory of terra sigillata. We enjoyed creating art in a facility that offered space for all types of ceramic experimentation with” kilns that range from high-fire gas, raku, soda, and wood firing to lower-fired electric, pit, and smoke.” [3]

I returned from Italy having learned about the human spirit and myself. However, I walked away from that experience with a heightened appreciation for the relationship between the teacher and learner. Multiple learning styles exist in each learning environ. It is absolutely, incumbent upon the teacher to accommodate the learning styles of the student - auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners.

I returned home with terra sigillata shards, lecture and demonstration video and a wealth of knowledge. I’ve even begun to conduct experiments with the terra sigillata process I learned in Italy and look forward to incorporating that style of surface treatment into my curriculum. Traveling to Italy was invaluable.

Terry A. deBardelaben,

a.k.a. york

Upper School Ceramics Teacher
St. Stephen’s &
St. Agnes School

Adjunct Faculty-3D Concepts
Howard University

All content © 2006 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Convergence of Vision: The Power of Art

I was directed to the Black Artists of DC (BADC ) when searching for an African American artists group with which to be involved. In joining the BADC, I found I had unknowingly become a part of a revolution of self validation and acknowledgement: A Black Artists Revolution in the 21st century.

The exhibit, Convergence of Vision: The Power of Art, represents a coming together of concepts, experiences, resources, skills, manpower and financial resources between the Prince George's Community College and the Perfect Plan of Greater Washington. This is the first exhibition sponsored by BADC for a public institution. This exhibit is a direct manifestation of our collective efforts, energy and power. BADC is evolving as a group. Its members are embarking on a path of claiming our rights to thrive and prosper as a community of artists and lovers of art. We are opening doors and windows of the communities that surround us. We are intent on opening eyes and minds.

The figurative and abstract works in the exhibition consist of painting, digital media, mixed media and sculpture. Through our art, we advocate, testify, inform and prophesize.

Mekbib Gerbertsadik paints an abstract representation of the tragedy that devastated New Orleans in his piece titled "Katrina." Liani Foster and Bruce McNeil, tackle the issues of abuse and mistreatment of the environment and its negative effects for the future of the earth.

Within the endless lines and the infinite possibilities of color, the artists Rosetta Deberardinis, Gina Lewis, Bill Harris, Monica Seaberry-Beasley, Alec Simpson, Greg Scott, Diedra Bell and Alanzo Robles-Gordon each interpret and celebrate the endless journey of abstraction. The photography of Yvette Mitchell, Barbara Blanco and Adrienne Mills crystallizes life's precious moments by documenting the look and feelings of disappointment, joy of friendships and the presence of intimacy and the power of a women's nude form.

Gloria Kirk, Francine Haskins and Gwendolyn Aqui intuitively spin stories of joy, dance and celebration past and present. Each layer adding depth, texture and dimension. Francine Haskins draws, paints, and sews digitally printed images on silk, ultimately creating a multi-layered quilt on canvas. Gwendolyn Aqui combines layers of acrylic paints, varied textured papers, stamped emblems. She then paints her figurative forms on top of the multi-layer canvas.

The exhibit is accented by the works of Miles Bumbray, Francis Washington, Joshua Isaac and John Earl Copper. The works of Audrey Brown, Annie Bouie, James Brown, R.W. Pointer, Juliette Madison and Daniel Brooking are presented as shrines, as used in traditional African cultures, to pay tribute to our ancestors and to our continuing cultural and artistic development. These shrines were arranged to represent a place of worship, a hallowed place to associate with the sacred. Spirituality is a commonly used theme by the members of BADC, most notably and specifically in this exhibition.

Artists Claudia Gibson Hunter, Akili Ron Anderson, Frank Smith, Michael Platt, Harlee Little and Viola Leak give us varied works that in their complexity constitute aesthetic and structural touchstones for both BADC and this exhibit.

Commercialism in the art world demands that artists strive for success through individuality and personal identity at all costs. We of BADC view this as an attitude ultimately counter productive to our creativity.

BADC's purpose is to promote, develop and validate the culture, artistic expression and aspirations of past and present artists of African American Ancestry. We are African seeds transplanted throughout the African Diaspora: African American, Afro-Latino, Afro-Native American and Caribbean-a collective of extended families. We conceive of our art as the key to our existence and the pathway to generational prosperity, spirituality and healing.

BADC understands that positive outcomes occur most readily when people know who they are, where they come from and, most importantly, who supports them, as they make their way in this world.

Amber Robles-Gordon, Curator

All content © 2006 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved.
For permission to reproduce contact: