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Exhibit combines the art and science of clay

Amanda Nieto
Associate News Editor

The opening reception of “Ceramics for the New Millennium” took place Saturday at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona where art and science are combined in an intriguing display.

A large room divided into various areas presented the work of engineers and scientists that show the numerous applications for ceramics. About 40 guests attended the show to see how their everyday lives benefit by the inventions that use ceramic technology.

Christy Johnson, director and curator at the museum, said that the exhibit provides an overview of the many uses of clay in technology such as the applications in aerospace, automotives and electronics.

“This is the science side of clay,” Johnson said. “The museum wanted a technology exhibit for some time because it is very different from the usual art objects.”

The exhibit hosted work from known companies such as Conair and Dirt Devil to show how ceramics is used in the present day. Other applications of ceramics included man-made gems, kitchen tools and medical advancements like ceramic joint replacements.

As guests viewed the various uses of clay in technology, a seating area provided for a place to view a supplemental film to help connect the numerous displays.

“Watching the movie helped combine and explain all of the pieces in the room,” said Kim Whippie a guest and member of the community. “It was kind of a ‘how do they do it’ video where the background of ceramic inventions were explained.”

Johnson said that the process of creating a science-based exhibit called for professionals in the fields of technology and engineering. Experts from Cal Poly Pomona also helped in assembling a cohesive exhibition.

Curiosity is the main tie between art and science with experimentation and new discoveries often being the end result, Johnson said.

Geraldo Barrientos, an intermediate ceramist from Glendale Community College, attended the opening to learn more about clays and glazes.

Barrientos said that the uses for clay are always expanding and changing, and the present exhibit is a place to witness this evolution.

The organization, Potters for Peace, displayed their new water purifiers made of clay. These clay water filters are used in developing countries or in places in need of clean water. Being that clay is affordable and easy to obtain the cost remains low so fresh water can be provided.

“I enjoy cooking, so seeing the kitchen tools was very interesting,” Whippie said. “I was amazed that the ceramic knives are more efficient than steel ones.”

New uses for clay are being developed every day, and looking toward the future it is understandable that ceramics will replace other less environment-friendly materials.

Clay takes a lifetime to understand, a lifetime to perfect the craft and know how to manipulate it Barrientos said.

“Art and science are on two opposite sides of the brain and they seem far apart, but they are really connected,” Johnson said.

For those curious to see how connected the art and science of clay is, the exhibition will be open until April 9.

Amanda Nieto can be reached at

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