March 11, 2020

Ethan Powell

As I approach the end of my wonderful time studying Ceramics at Cardiff School of Art and Design, I’m looking forward to all the new experiences that life will bring as I take my frst steps towards becoming a professional ceramicist.

But it’s also important to take a look back at all the experiences I’ve had at university. There has been so much personal growth, new connections both physical and emotional, good times and hard times – but never any bad times, just more challenges and opportunities to grow.

These are some of the things I am most thankful for about the education provided to me on the ceramics course at Cardiff Met:

1. The Tutors and Technicians

The wealth of knowledge and opportunities the course provides all stand on a small team of extremely dedicated tutors and technicians. I think about our first day on the course, having tea out of our lecturer Duncan’s collection of mugs. What a warm and welcoming experience this was – something so important at a time that can be daunting for many. He was always there for us as first years, offering both knowledge and friendship.

In third year, we spend more time with Claire and Natasha who have the tough job of guiding students at perhaps their most stressful time. Nevertheless, they work hard to help keep you calm and focused while working towards the culmination of your university experience, and putting on the best degree show possible.

Third year can be a stressful time but we get lots of support from the course team.

Our tutors provide us with so much contextual and technical knowledge but what good would that be without being able to put it into practice? This is where I have to give thanks to the tremendous work provided by the technicians Matt, Caroline, Gemma and Margo.

I remember in first year when Matt limited me to asking him three questions a day. This might sound mean, but being that the answer was mostly “yes” he was simply encouraging me to be as assertive as possible in trying my ideas! I came to university with a lot of things I wanted to try, and thanks to our technicians I was able to do all of them and more.

2. The Facilities

The ceramics facilities at CSAD are second to none. Are you a thrower? Great! They have a room full of potter’s wheels. Are you a hand builder? Because they have dedicated hand building space across two floors. Prefer slip casting? They have a room for that too.

What about kilns though, those are expensive aren’t they? Don’t you worry about that; off the top of my head I count 9 large electric kilns capable of firing to stoneware temperatures, 2 large gas kilns, 4 small top loaders for earthenware firing, 5 small test kilns for stoneware electric firings, plus a raku kiln, a saggar kiln and a soda kiln. I think that covers everything.

Ethan in the kiln room
The facilities here are fantastic for Ceramics.

Oh, except the ceramic print room, the spray booth, the ball mill, the fully stocked glaze room and the clay store providing a range of different clays.

Did I mention that all the facilities and virtually all materials are included in your tuition fees? That means that it’s quite possible to not pay a penny for any work made for the course during the whole three years depending on the materials you choose.

You also get your own desk and shelving every year – there’s no hot-desking at CSAD when it comes to Ceramics. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ve used everything available to me across the three years I’ve been here!

3. The support

Before I came to Cardiff Met I actually did a year of university somewhere else and didn’t get on well with it. It was straight out of high school, and it was at a tough time in my life. I struggled to keep up with workload and ended up dropping out after the first year.

My experience at CSAD has been the polar opposite. Even when I’ve struggled I’ve always felt like I had a great support network around me. The university is so connected at the Llandaff Campus that if you need anything it’s never more than a minute’s walk away.

Ethan glazing a pot
Pretty much everything you need is within a minute or two’s walk from the ceramics workshops.

There’s good food at the School of Management canteen, advice from the centre for entrepreneurship, a fully stocked library and a gym all within easy reach so you can visit between making pots. The counselling service and careers team were there when I needed them (and I did need them). The uni’s app made it so easy to arrange and keep track of appointments.

By the end of reading this you might be thinking “how much are they paying this kid?” well if you read back you will see that my time at Cardiff Metropolitan university has been one of the most rewarding times of my life. For every ounce of effort I put in, there was a member of the faculty ready to put that effort in again tenfold, and for that I am very thankful.