Disciples of Ceramics

Surprisingly, a world built on feet of clay can be both stable and exciting.
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You wouldn’t guess from talking to them that Rachel Silva ’16 and Elizabeth VanNess ’16 only started working with ceramics a year ago. “I already can’t imagine not being a potter,” said VanNess.

After taking “Intro to the Wheel” with Carrie Olson, associate professor of studio art, during the spring of their sophomore year, the two went on to take advanced level ceramics classes, complete independent studies in ceramics, and to work as teacher’s assistants in the ceramics studio. “Neither of us went into it expecting to become Carrie’s disciples,” said Silva, a studio art major and psychology minor from Lorain, Ohio, “but we just fell in love with the art.”

Then a visiting ceramics professor told them about the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference, where ceramics artists, scholars, curators, critics and theorists present lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions. They leapt at the chance to attend. “It was really great to feel like we were part of this whole movement,” said VanNess, a philosophy and environmental studies major and studio art minor from Alexandria, Ohio.

“I am so pleased with the way Rachel and Elizabeth really made the most of their experience there, taking full advantage of everything this conference had to offer,” said Olson. “They came back inspired, informed and motivated by the exposure to a wide range of international experts in the ceramics field. Elizabeth and Rachel had the opportunity to see more important and current ceramic art in person over three days than they would normally see over the course of their four years at Denison.”

During the three day conference, Silva and VanNess talked with ceramicists one on one, visited galleries displaying ceramics, learned about the set-up of ceramics exhibits, and attended presentations on topics ranging from the incorporation of glass into ceramics to the maintenance of electric kilns.

“We both gained so much inspiration for our own work while we were there,” said VanNess. “But we gained encouragement too,” added Silva. “You hear a lot about starving artists, but the people there helped show us that art is something you can pursue seriously even after college.”

“You hear a lot about starving artists, but the people there helped show us that art is something you can pursue seriously even after college.”

“I like the ways in which ceramics helps me connect to others,” said Silva. “It’s a special feeling to know that the pieces I make can help bring people together.”

“For me, ceramics is a therapeutic process,” said VanNess. “Knowing that it’s there for me as an option helps me get through whatever else is going on.”

The Studio Art Program and professor Olson have been sending students to this conference as an opportunity for students to network, meet other art students from other institutions, and meet with representatives from art grad programs from across the country. The Horizon Fund provided additional financial support to ensure their participation in the conference.

August 3, 2015