As students advance through ceramic sequences, they may follow a traditional approach to clay and/or pursue experimentation with the medium. Through lectures and hands-on lab exercises, students experiment with ceramic materials and glaze technology to gain an understanding of raw materials, discovering how to develop and utilize clay bodies and various surfaces to suit specific needs. The basics of clay formulation are taught along with triaxial and line blends, batch and recipe glaze calculation. Courses include wheel throwing, hand building, clay and glazes, and 3D Actual/Virtual - a digitally based 3D modeling course.
Since 2009, ceramics students have partnered with USC Thornton School of Music to create original percussion and wind objects. Thornton students then learn to play these creations and compose an original score for each piece. In conjunction with this collaboration, a USC cultural Visions and Voices grant has brought experimental musicians to campus, including concerts by The Antenna Repairmen, Trimpin, and Bob Partch, and Ken Butler -- artists who play exclusively on handmade objects. These and other artists speak to the advanced class each semester. In preparation, students read a history of handmade ceramic instruments across cultures and learn about contemporary artists creating ceramic musical objects.
Students have many opportunities to exhibit their work, including open studios, solo shows in the Lindhurst Gallery, and an annual show in the USC Fisher Museum. Advanced Ceramics students mount a group exhibition in Lindhurst Gallery every other year. The exhibition's theme is determined by each class, and students gain experience with installation, curation, and promotion tactics involved in mounting a successful exhibition.
Gallery visits to a variety of Los Angeles museums and galleries are an integral part of the curriculum. Multiple classes have taken a weekend trip to the high desert to dig clay and tour Andrea Zittel's AZ West (a 35-acre test site for functional living). Others students have accessed ceramic historian Elaine Levin's papers, an archive of notes, articles, images and interviews of noted artists in the field, in USC's Architecture and Fine Arts Library.