Corey Jefferson is a ceramic artist, working as an instructor in the Ceramics Department at Herron School of Art and Design, Indianapolis University–Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). He holds a BFA from Miami University with a focus in both ceramics and printmaking and an MFA from the University of Cincinnati, with a focus in ceramic sculpting.
Corey creates sculptures out of ceramics and found objects. His current focus is building sculptures influenced by the form of boats. This theme has been a focus in his work, for the past two years. Corey enjoys creating objects out of clay using both wheel throwing and the hand building methods.
My passion for ceramics began when I was 10 years old and went to a summer camp. As I continued art classes throughout my life and educational experience, I became even more connected with clay. The excitement of creating art work with this material has never left me. I find teaching to be a creative act as well. I enjoy sharing my knowledge of ceramics and art making with students. Clay is earth and can be made into functional works or pieces that express an inner voice. I want my students to have a respect for the earth, and I want them to respect the world of fine arts. I convey these messages during the classes I teach.
I believe in a holistic approach to teaching ceramics. I educate the students about the materials and equipment to ensure that each item and material is used safely and stored properly. I stress the fact that technical know how goes hand-in-hand with the creative process. This challenges me to combine my knowledge and experience with the individual abilities of my students. I find that an effective way to do this is by structuring my syllabus in two parts. I teach the technical aspects in the first part of the course and then allow for open time to develop skills in the later part of the course. Through this approach, I encourage creative thinking and expression. Knowing that the creative process happens in variety of ways, I encourage each student to strive to create art that is always his or her personal best.
A strong foundation of fundamentals is of great importance. I stress the significance of always incorporating these basic rules into each piece of work. Teaching a wide variety of art making processes and using different mediums will ensure that no one is hindered in his or her art making. A strong work ethic is also something I expect from each student. I implement this philosophy in my syllabus. Not only do I make my goals and expectations clear from the outset but I require deadlines to be met.
The learning environment is an essential factor in an educational experience. I believe in enthusiasm. As a teacher, I bring my own creative energy and knowledge to the work area, infusing the classroom with inspiration. I advocate active learning. Art classes are different from many other classes in the university, because students actively use their five senses. The classes are physical, longer, and communal. The results are well thought out, two- or three-dimensional pieces of work. However, because art making is an individual effort, I continuously encourage personal expression and style from the students.
I believe in equality. Treating each student as an individual and not discriminating against anyone for any reason helps to form a mutually respectful atmosphere. At the college level, students have diverse levels of ability. It is important to make clear that no one is considered a better artist because of this. The work in art class is public. Student projects are reviewed by me and through a peer review process. Critiquing is done in a respectful manner.
I complement my teaching with examples of my own work. For several years, I have been experimenting with various building processes and glazes. Some worked well and some did not. I am able to share my successes and failures with the students. By doing so, I show the students that art is a learning process. It involves continuous exploration and experimentation at all levels. Experimentation involves independent learning, and both critical and analytical thinking. I want students to take away ideas about thinking in new ways not only in my class but in the other classes they take as well.
To keep creative ideas flowing, I feel it is important to expose students to art museums and art exhibits in the community. In addition, I include art history in the curriculum. It not only enhances and influences the students’ work, but it gives them an appreciation of various cultures as well. I am able to relate to the students through my own work. Because of my African American heritage, African arts have been a strong influence in my work. I enjoy bringing my knowledge of historical African Art to the classroom. This helps students branch out in their own way by reflecting on their interests.
Accomplishing my objectives for each course requires effective planning along with assigning creative projects. I want students to be creatively challenged yet be exposed to practical and technical problems in producing a ceramic project. The tools of art are physical but the creative ideas are cerebral. With this in mind, I encourage sketching and writing ideas in journals. Making art can be exciting and challenging in an open-minded but structured environment. As the instructor, it is my job and desire to create the environment that will be conducive to a successful art making process and a positive learning experience for all of the students. I continue to improve my approach each year through feedback from student evaluations, professional and peer reviews and keeping up with the literature in the field of ceramics.
In summary my teaching philosophy combines knowledge with encouragement, enthusiasm, and the same wide-eye wonder I had at age 10 when I first felt clay slide through my fingers.