Saturday, October 27, 2012

Losing the UCSD Crafts Center

The Crafts Center closed suddenly during registration for fall classes this month. The funding was pulled, and we all sat stunned. I've learned to make pottery there, have been taking classes for almost 7 years.  Wow.

In some ways, it was well done. The Center is funded by UCSD student fees and by tuition for classes and studio membership. Prices rise, university budget falls, the students do not want to pay more in fees. In a poll of students' priorities for the use of their fees, the Craft Center came out low. And it is hard to argue that teaching crafts is so central to a university's work that they must find alternate funding.

But so suddenly? With no warning and no chance for all the people who love the place to work to fill the financial gap? And at this time, after course flyers were produced and distributed, and registration underway?

Individually, we who work there are forced to a decision point. This is not a bad thing  -- how do we see ourselves as craftspeople? what will we do next, since we will not do what we are used to? how much commitment will we make to finding resources to continue in our crafts? Some have already moved to other studios, decided to work alone at home, or quit. I feel kicked out of the nest, required to fly. I think it may be high time for that, good for me. I have been exploring the kind of mid-temperature firing I can do at home, but not with much energy. Until I find another shared studio, if I do, it will now be most of my potting..

But I am also mourning my losses, and finding more as the weeks continue after the Center closed. We scrambled to finish partly-done pots, feeling unwelcome in our home away from home. I have a few pots left  -- will I find another place to fire cone 10 reduction?  Whoa, I don't have access to a slab roller for making a kind of platter I have developed as mine. Like this one:

 Oops, no more glaze spraying, no more of these good effects:


 What about my favorite glazes? For some I have found lower temperature equivalents, but not for other wonderful ones, like this:

And the unpredictable runny and varying looks that high temperature firing produce; I love them.

But mostly, it's the company I miss, the colleagueship, the easy availability of answers to my questions, the shared familiarity with glazes and kilns, the friendliness, the shared history, the community.

For me, not a tragedy. I can continue at home, and I am not dependent on the Crafts Center for income. But it is real loss.

The university calls it only a temporary closure, though that seems unlikely without ongoing action from those who want to be there. A substantial group of  us are organizing to try to continue  --  to preserve equipment, raise funds, look for alternative homes in and out of UCSD, increase support among students.  I am impressed with the beginnings of this process; it seems thoughtful, careful, realistic, long-term. Wish us luck.