Each piece in the Purpose Collection has been touched by many hands. One person “throws” a mug, while another attaches the handle, followed by another who adds the leaves and yet another who glazes it. Each cup takes up to three days to finish.

The pitchers, says Jose ’22, take a bit longer.

Jose is a painting major from Georgia. He can throw any piece in this collection. Each finished product is a matter of pride and satisfaction for him, but he especially likes the meditative experience of handling the clay.

“There’s something wonderful about being allowed to get your hands dirty in that way,” he said. “It reminds me of being young and just getting into mud and not caring. I also like that it’s a very meditative kind of activity. Once you get the hang of it, you can turn your brain off and just let your body do the work. You can sit there and contemplate everything.”

The meditative state helps Jose come up with ideas for painting as he prepares for his senior art show. It’s apropos since the Purpose Collection is inspired by Berea’s Seventh Great Commitment to mindfulness. Aesthetically based on red and black barns, silos and granaries that have become weathered over time and reclaimed by nature, the collection offers a poetic rumination on decay and growth.

Jose comes from “a working-class family,” and there wasn’t much emphasis on the arts growing up.

Photo of Jose smoothing a pot he is throwing on a pottery wheel
Jose throws a pot in the Berea College ceramics studio. Jose can throw any piece in the new Student Craft Purpose Collection.

“There wasn’t really any room for my family to explore anything artistic,” Jose said. “You know, it’s work, survive. So, I’m really thankful that I’m getting the chance to explore something like this.”

It took some time for Jose to get the hang of throwing mugs and pitchers. He describes ceramics as having “a steep learning curve.”

“My first semester,” he said, “I made almost no good pots. Everything was either really small, or I just couldn’t get the clay up.” But over time, putting in extra hours over winter and summer breaks, Jose got to be the craftsperson that he is.

In 10 years, Jose sees himself in his own studio, painting and doing ceramics. “I’ve come to really love ceramics, and I don’t see myself stopping. Because of Berea, I’ve been able to explore and find these wonderful passions: painting, ceramics, print making, and art history.”

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