Airman lets creative side shine at Arts and Crafts Center

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs, prepares a ceramic stein, a decorative German beer mug, for firing May 21. Firing is the one of the first steps when preparing a ceramic for painting. (U.S. Air Force photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs, prepares a ceramic stein, a decorative German beer mug, for firing May 21. Firing is the one of the first steps when preparing a ceramic for painting. (U.S. Air Force photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- That Saturday afternoon was a particularly boring one at the dorms for the 21-year-old Airman. The Hartsville, S.C., native had just arrived at Goodfellow a few months before and hadn't really gotten to know anyone yet, it was just another day of nothing to do and all day to do it.

So, she began walking around. A building on Mitchell Street caught her eye, and what she saw when she went inside made her smile.

Dragons. Ceramic dragons, that is.

She bought the dragon and some paint and sat down to work. Before she knew it, she had spent the entire afternoon at the place, lost in her creativity.

That's how Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith recalled her first visit to the Arts and Crafts Center last year. Her discovery helped transform her boredom and loneliness into an enviable collection of dragons and other colorful creations.

Airman Keith, who is assigned to the 17th Training Wing Public Affairs Office, said the relaxation she gets from painting is very therapeutic.

"I am generally a tense person, but when I start to paint, I let go of the things that stress me," she said. "The only thing I am concerned about is what colors I want and the techniques I need to use to get the effects I want."

Although Airman Keith said she's most fond of painting dragons and steins, which are large German beer mugs, she's open to expressing her creativity on the center's large ceramic collection.

"I will paint just about any ceramic there," she said. "It depends on what happens to catch my eye when I'm looking through the catalog."

Once she's selected one of the hundreds of molds the center has, Airman Keith's creativity swings into action.

First, she pours the mold, which can take anywhere from an hour or two for small pieces , to half a day or more for larger ones.

Once poured, the figure is nothing more than thick mud that is very delicate. After drying, it is cleaned using a thin, sharp blade to remove any excess mud. After that, the mold can be fired.

To make things go faster, customers can buy a ceramic the staff has prepared. Although this is a little more expensive, Airman Keith said it can be worthwhile for creating large pieces.

After all the preparation is done, she chooses from the many different types of paint . Once the piece is painted, it may have to be fired again depending upon the paint. After that, she glazes and fires her creation one more time to seal everything together.

Of all her creations, Airman Keith who has created more than forty pieces so far, said she's proudest of a tall, thin stein with eagles on it.

"It looks like one of the eagles is ready to swoop down and snatch something off the table," she said. "I used very diluted paint to give it an almost watercolor effect, and it worked out even better than I expected it to. When I look at it, I can't believe I actually made something that beautiful."

Besides encouraging her creativity, Airman Keith said the Arts and Crafts Center staff makes the process a very enjoyable one.

"They are all very helpful," she said. "If I want to do something and don't know how, they always make themselves available to help me. They are knowledgeable, friendly and professional."

Airman Keith said she'd like to expand her creativity with other classes offered at the Arts and Crafts Center.

"I am interested in taking some of their classes on either glass work or pottery," she added.

The Arts and Crafts Center is located in Bldg. 109. It's open 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays and noon - 6 p.m. Sundays.

For more information or to sign up for classes, call (325) 654-3237.