Oliver's Observatory

The Blog & Observations of Oliver H. Evans

From Class to Kiln: Kendall Clay Collective

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There is a group of students that many of you may notice the next time you walk past the new UICA building. On the bottom floor, something great is taking place between a small group of Kendall students (from all concentrations) and a selfless Assistant Professor - all of whom share a wonderful interest in ceramics. They are known as the Kendall Clay Collective. And they have created quite a reputation for themselves. I say this in a good way, of course. And I say this primarily because of the extensive amount of dedication and effort these students and the alumni before them have demonstrated to pursue their interest in ceramics. Since the collective's start in 2009, nearly 15 students per semester have met regularly to not only create great work, but also to strategize, delegate, vote, and brainstorm for new ways to raise funds for many special trips and workshops that they hold throughout the year. In 2010, Davis and the group attended the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) Conference in Philadelphia. The group has also attended the Michigan Mud Conference. However, the most involved, and more regular, of the clay collective's outings takes place twice a year at Ox-Bow, in Saugatuck, MI.

I have mentioned Ox-Bow in previous posts, as they offer many wonderful workshops and courses in many concentrations, many of which the students I have written about have attended. However, the clay collective's bi-annual workshops involve an intense study of ceramics, including guest speakers. Rebecca Hutchinson (UMass - Dartmouth) spoke at the collective's most recent fall workshop.

Collective members working in the studio.  

Collective members working in the studio.

 

It is gratifying to see this group of students working together, and working so diligently, to make these workshops possible. The collective, ran democratically, includes four elected officials.  Current club president, Andrew Doty, says of the collective's initiative, "It shows that everyone involved has a genuine interest in what they're doing." Evan Shurlow, the club's president elect added, "It kind of comes down to who wants to put in the work."

And work may be an understatement. During each Ox-Bow workshop, club members take turns splitting wood, firing and managing the kiln, cleaning, and learning. Davis says of this,"I really want [students] to do it for their interest in ceramics, not as an assignment. It's a great event and folks really enjoy being out there." Davis has mentioned, however, that he does offer the experience as extra credit in his class.

Evan Shurlow - President-elect, Kendall Clay Collective  

Evan Shurlow - President-elect, Kendall Clay Collective

 

It's impressive because collective seeks to go beyond formal education to create a brand of interest and achievement, all their own. In an effort to further inspire collective members, Davis brings a handful of ceramics enthusiasts from the around community to Ox-Bow. Davis says of this, "[Students] are working with people who aren't driven by a grade at that point. They're driven by their own desire to learn more. It's a great exchange of information and where people's passions are. They get a fine education at Kendall, but they also have to know how to get past school."

Doty has been awarded two two-week scholarships this summer. One at Penland School of Crafts, and another at Ox-Bow. Jessica Shelton (Metals / Jewelry '12) also received a full two-week scholarship at Ox-Bow this summer. Many other members have been awarded scholarships, instructed classes, and have continued their involvement with ceramics between semesters. Davis will also be teaching a course on screen printing on clay this summer at Penland. In August, he will travel to Muggia, Italy, where he and a colleague designed and built a wood kiln.

It shows that everyone involved has a genuine interest in what they’re doing.
— Andrew Doty - President, Kendall Clay Collective
Israel Davis checking kiln temperature  

Israel Davis checking kiln temperature

 

The Kendall Clay Collective has a website. Its homepage states that "The Kendall Clay Collective is a student group dedicated to the advancement of art education through ceramics."  It really is a remarkable mission; one they certainly continue to live (and learn) up to. "We're working on an online presence," says Davis. They hope to raise more funds for future workshops by working with local retailers, as they begin prototyping a signature line of ceramics that will soon bare the stamp of the Kendall Clay Collective.