by Kristin Arzt

For the past twenty years, Rosa Dorantes has been dedicated to sharing her knowledge of ceramics. An Oakland-native who found The Crucible just over one year ago, Rosa has transformed our Ceramics Department into a sanctuary that keeps students coming back. In the year since she has taken over as Department Head, multiple students have taken Ceramics I with Rosa three times in a row.

Rosa’s mother immigrated from Nicaragua and her father from Mexico—but Oakland is home for Rosa and her family. Her parents met on the streets of San Francisco. Her mother was lost, and her dad had directions. The rest was history. 

“I was born in Oakland, and Oakland is where I first fell in love with ceramics when I was 14,” Rosa told us. “For me, coming to The Crucible is my journey really coming full circle. Now, I get to share my passion for ceramics with my community, while being immersed in the greater arts community at The Crucible.” 

How did you get into ceramics?

My favorite middle school art teacher introduced me to ceramics, and I fell in love with it immediately. I started with hand building and slip casting, like we have in our Ceramics Department here. After graduating, I took some ceramics classes at my local community college, and I said to myself, ‘This is what I really want to do.’ It all clicked.

How did you find The Crucible?

Since my early college days, I remember hearing about The Crucible. My teachers would tell me about the facilities here and how wonderful the community is. I remember seeing it from BART on my way into San Francisco. But, one day, it became much more visible to me. Not only in the sense of reputation, but also visibility.

We painted our sign red!

Yes! I remember noticing that! It felt like a sign, pulling me in. So, I started volunteering. The community immediately blew me away. Everyone is so enthusiastic about what they know, and excited to share that knowledge. I applied to teach here, and now I am the Ceramics Department Head.

Studio Manager Maliq painted our sign red in January 2018.

Rosa’s work on display at The Crucible’s 20th Anniversary Party in January 2019.

Why do you think people are called to teach at The Crucible?

We have so many resources and such a knowledgeable community that really anything is possible. Being in this community is so empowering. Anyone who has an idea can start their project here.

Have you had a project that was made possible with help from the community?

Daniel Yasmin built us a brand new raku kiln last year! I collaborated with him while he was building it, and it was an incredible feeling to see this beautiful thing emerge and grow from our collective vision. I told him what I wanted, and a few days later, there it was. It is absolutely amazing. I have never seen any kind of raku kiln do what ours can do. It is an absolute dream come true.

The Ceramics Department’s brand new raku kiln, built by Daniel Yasmin, Machine Shop Department Head.

On the last session of Ceramics I classes, students raku glaze and fire their pieces made in class!

Do you have any favorite student moments?

I have a few students that have taken my classes multiples times, so I have gotten to see their journey and their skills develop over the course of this past year. One student has taken Ceramics I three times, and she came in as a painter and is very defiant. She learns by doing rather than taking my advice. Sculpturally, ceramics is a challenge for her, but we both realized she thrives once she can glaze with the paintbrush. The clay is just the medium for her to get to the point where she can express herself. Watching her journey to where she is now—her struggle, the realization, then the real blossoming of her as an artist—has been amazing. The work she produced in our last class was absolutely incredible.

What keeps students coming back to your classes over and over?

When people walk into the studio, I want them to feel like they are coming into my home. I want them to feel welcome, and like they are in an environment where they can really express themselves. You know when you get off from work and have a hard day? You just want to unwind and let go. I want them to feel the same way when they come in here. If you had a bad day, slam that clay down! Let it out!

What are you most excited about for the future of the department?

We have brand new classes coming up this summer! Tile Glazing and Large Ceramic Forms are new, project-based classes. Tile Glazing is perfect for students who love surface design, and Large Ceramic Forms is great for those who want to make more functional work and have some prior experience with ceramics. At the very least, you need to try this raku kiln.

Tile Glazing

A gorgeous tile glazed by Rosa for Tile Glazing class.

Large Ceramic Forms

Rosa builds a giant peach vessel in Large Ceramic Forms.

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