Learning, working together
Ceramics professor Tim Taunton will be the first to tell you he doesn’t know everything
– and that is fine with him.
“I don’t always like to be critical of student’s clay working techniques just
because they are different from my own. There are many different methods
of creating with ceramics, and I don’t know them all,” he says. “In addition to
teaching, I’m also here to explore with my students. I think that is one
of the many things we really do well at this college – we learn and work together.”
Taunton, a Professor in the Art and Design Department, also teaches sculpture
and 3-D design.
“That’s anything that isn’t flat,” he says with a laugh. “Primarily, it’s all
3-D work. In ceramics, we do wheel throwing and hand building. My sculpture and
3-D design classes often overlap in terms of content and concepts as we start thinking
about expression within a 3-D context.”
Taunton says his students explore different media, including ceramics, balsa wood,
wood, metal and other things, including objects some might consider strange.
“Sometimes it’s anything goes when we work with found objects,” he says. “We go
to Rockville Flea Market to look for different sorts of discarded items we can
recycle – a sort of a sustainability approach to art.”
But that actually is a very big part of contemporary art, according to the professor.
“Some artists will take things out of their original context and put them together
to form an interesting narrative sculpture, even though it’s made of just found
Taunton has been at the college since 1984 and says he’s seen a lot of changes.
“In the field of ceramics, there are so many areas and new technologies that it’s
impossible to explore them all. There is new equipment that allows us to produce
ceramic ware faster, and differently formulated glazes that were impossible to
get in the past that now allow us to get colors very easily.”
Advances are felt across all areas of art.
“Video has changed just about everything, and computers have opened up the field
of graphic design. Many students come in now that are much more technologically
adept. They’ve grown up using Photoshop and different computer software, so they’re
up on it. That changes the playing field a lot of times in terms of what you can
achieve within a classroom.”
But then there are the students who aren’t quite as immersed in the new technologies.
“That’s the nice thing about LaGrange College,” he says. “You get that variety
in the classroom, and it is the way we work. We’re used to teaching those who come
in with not as much experience in a given media as well as kids who’ve been
swimming in it their whole lives.”
And then the fun starts, he says.
“When we can take one student to that next level, it gets really exciting. And
then they challenge us to get beyond our limits as well, and that’s fun.
It’s what makes the job – when you have students who make you go home and say,
‘I had a good day today. Somebody did something that was just incredible.’
“That’s when it all becomes worth it.”