Throwing It Down With Greg Marshall

Greg Marshall is a familiar face in the Arts & Crafts Department. As the clay instructor at Colorado College for 17 years, Marshall is a staple to the program. Due to the increasing popularity of the pottery adjunct, students line up to claim a spot in his class. Yet the rising demand, coupled with the studio’s limited space, caps the classes at 10 students. Marshall commented on his contribution to the department and this growing interest.

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Photo by Austin Halpern

The pottery studio is tucked away in the lower level of Worner. Nestled between the bookstore and the mailroom, many pass by its doors every day. Those who do visit the studio find a welcoming space filled with wheels, music, and student work. Marshall’s years of professional experience and encouraging attitude continue to bring students to the program.

“I first got into pottery when I was in college,” Marshall explained. “I was going to school in Oregon, and I needed another class just to have enough credits for that semester. I had always been interested in art, but I also really hadn’t done much in art. I was looking through the course catalogue and saw Ceramics I.” Following subsequent classes, Marshall considered pursuing art education. Although his plan was to become a professional potter, he hoped to develop the quality and style of his own work prior to entering the field.

During his senior year of college, a student teaching job at a local high school changed his perspective. “I hated it,” Marshall said. “I was so enthusiastic about pottery that I thought that enthusiasm would rub off on the students. It was an unrealistic outlook.” He described the students as disrespectful and destructive. It effectively turned him away from teaching.

Marshall worked for 30 years as a professional potter and studio owner before returning to art education. CC’s student body was a welcome change. The difference from high school teaching? Students choose to spend their time in the studio. This creates an environment of positivity and inclusivity. “We basically just hang out together and make pots, and while we’re doing it we discuss anything and everything,” Marshall said. He continues to work professionally and sells his work in a Manitou Springs gallery.

He described his role as, “somewhere in between a parent and a professor.” Marshall continued, “I have a very interesting relationship with the students because I’m not a professor, they don’t get any credit for taking classes here. It’s something that they do for their own enjoyment or to learn something new. And so they don’t demand on me for a grade.” This close relationship is valued by both Marshall and his students. “Greg’s the man!” said student teacher Nora Watkins.

Marshall and Watkins each teach one section of Beginning Wheel Throwing. The Arts & Crafts Department also offers open studio for more advanced potters. Marshall provides one-on-one assistance to the students in open studio. Otherwise, the adjunct ensures open access to the studio and materials. “It’s open all the time,” said student and studio assistant Jaysha Schwindt. “I can go whenever I want. If I ever feel the need to throw some pottery at 2 a.m., I can.”

From even a short visit, the studio generated an infectious creative energy. Students crave the time spent in this innovative space. “I love having the creative outlet from my regular block,” said pottery student Addie Knight. “It’s a well-needed break from the hectic schedule of the Block Plan.”

And the word has spread. As the pottery adjunct grows in popularity, so does the line to claim a spot. Marshall has noticed this demand, particularly in the last couple of years. There are approximately 45 students that have access to the studio each block. Due to their small studio space, this is as many as the department can accommodate.

“We’re just kind of maxed out here in terms of the space we have,” Mashall explained. “Each student in open studio gets a cubby where they keep their clay, where they keep their pots. We have a lot of things that are getting ready to be built, getting ready to be glazed. We are just maxed out in terms of space, so we really can’t expand anymore, in terms of allowing more people in.” Students have noticed as well. “We work well with what we have,” said Schwindt.

The Monday of fourth week is the Arts & Crafts sign up in Worner. Due to limited class size, some students wait in line for over four hours to claim a spot. “The sign up process, especially for pottery, has gotten pretty competitive,” explained Watkins. “Last year, the earliest I had to get up to get into open studio was 5 a.m. but this year people have been sleeping in Worner all night to get a spot.”

“I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to get there and sit in line so I could be positive that I would get in the class,” said Knight. “I was the first one in line, and other people came throughout the morning until sign-ups started at 8 a.m.” Similar stories flood the department. Students are devoted to claiming one of the few spots for themselves.

About a year ago, students started placing their shoes in front of the Worner desk to hold their space in line. Although many students stayed in Worner with their shoes, some returned to their room until the 8 a.m. sign up; a change was necessary.

“The students came up with this idea that you had to be attached to your shoes some how,” said Marshall. “So, they come up with this idea of running a string from your shoes, like you could be on the coach over there as long as a string went from where you were to your shoes. I saw some pictures from the last sign up; It looked like a spider web.” The department now provides a spool of twine for the students.

Although there are no current plans to improve the sign up process or expand the studio, there has been discussion in the past. The suggestion of a lottery was met with some strong opposition.

“While [the sign up] is kind of crazy, it also ensures that the people who are getting the slots are the ones most dedicated to the program,” said pottery student Zascha Fox.

Arts & Crafts sign ups for Block 6 are Feb. 13. With a track record of late nights and early mornings, Worner is bound to be a popular location. Yet Marshall remained humble. “It’s just a fun place to hang out,” he said.

“This is my 17th year and I still love it. I love coming to work everyday. I think I’ve got a great job. It’s just great spending my days making pots and hanging out with students. You really can’t beat it.”

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