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Published Mar 21, 2018

Left to right: Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, Forrest Gard, Holly Goring, Emily Arbogast, Sandy Moening, Jessica Knapp, Kaitlynne Phillips, and Ash Neukamm

Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, Ceramic Arts Network Editor: We have just returned and are trying to catch our breath after the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference March 14-17th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While the conference is fresh in our minds, we thought we would share some reflections on the week. As usual, the conference was a whirlwind—taking in all the incredible artwork on display, watching demonstrations, listening to lectures, catching up with old friends, and meeting new faces. Each of our editors have written about their observations from the conference and you can read below.

When not in the booth, my time was spent behind the camera, recording some thoughtful conversations on pots and the state of the ceramics field today. With Simon Levin as our moderator, we chatted with Pete Pinnell, John Neely, Carole Epp, Roberto Lugo, Michael Strand, Forrest Lesch Middelton, and Julia Galloway. These conversations will be added to a growing collection of interviews and conversations on CLAYflicks in the coming months. Stay tuned!


Selection of work from the Ikebana International exhibit.Robert Lewis Nash's Banana FieldJen Harnetty with our TV winner, Jericho Barkley!


Jessica Knapp, Ceramics Monthly Editor: I was impressed with the quality of the work in the National K-12 exhibition, both in terms of the technical aspects of working with clay, and the development of concepts and ideas conveyed by the students' work.

The work that was on display in the National Student Juried Exhibition demonstrated not only the wide range of genres being explored by students, and encouraged by instructors, but also the synthesis of diverse, culturally relevant research and concepts with a high level of skill in various forming methods.

Through the programming, exhibitions, and outreach on the part of NCECA, institutions, and individual instructors, curators, and organizers, the conference had a notable and encouraging focus on inclusivity. The students and artists I spoke to at the booth, and who contributed work to the many exhibitions around town came from a wide range of backgrounds, which were reflected in the vessels, sculpture, and installations I had the opportunity to see and interact with.

People I spoke with have a real desire to both engage with and make a positive impact in their local communities using clay and ceramics to facilitate those goals.

Some tools I found particularly interesting: Xiem Tools Stainless Steel Carving Set (Double Ended), and Diamond Tools’ flexible diamond sanding pads.


View of Pittsburgh, PA.Hedy Yang throwing on the wheel at the Skutt booth.Selection of work from the K-12 Exhibition.


Holly Goring, Pottery Making Illustrated Editor: I was very encouraged by the number of younger artists that made a strong showing in the Exhibition Hall. Vendor booths, gallery spaces, and non-profit tables seem to be filled with students eager to not only learn more about each booth’s offerings, but also to introduce themselves as makers. This is a very promising as many of the established artists in the field are talking about retiring.

I loved that the galleries in the Expo area hosted so many artist talks. Rather than simply selling work, the galleries took an active role in educating their patrons on the ceramics they were selling and the artists they promote. While this has been done in the past, all the galleries took part this year and there was a lot more audience participation with larger crowds and extended Q & A’s after each talk.
I also thought the National K–12 Exhibition was an incredible show of talent again this year. From the elementary students to the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders the show was filled with creative and smart ceramic pieces that the field can be proud of and encouraged by.


Lois Harbaugh's New Amphora from the ICAN Juried Show.Collection of work from the ICAN Juried Show.Marina Smelik's Skillet with Fried Egg from the ICAN Juried Show.


Forrest Gard, Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated Associate Editor: It was a huge honor to have been asked to jury the ICAN Juried Show this year, which we had set up at one of our booths for NCECA. I really enjoyed meeting the artists who were in the exhibition as they came by the booth to see the show and say hi. My favorite part of it all was meeting the younger artists (some of which were still students) and those whose work I was less familiar with and to see their excitement when they saw their work in the exhibition.


Adam Chau's Ikebana Arrangement at NCECA. He is one of NCECA's 2018 emerging artists.NCECA 2018 Emerging Artist Wade MacDonald's exhibit.Natalia Arbelaez giving her NCECA 2018 Emerging Artist Lecture.


Ash Neukamm, Art Books and Ceramic Arts Network Assistant Editor: My favorite part of NCECA is always the Emerging Artist exhibition and lecture series, but this year I was completely blown away by the pure talent and intellect of the 6 selected artists: Natalia Arbelaez, Adam Chau, Wade MacDonald, Janet Macpherson, Sara Parent-Ramos, and Andrew Stansbury . Their work touched on immigration, isolation, sexuality, religion, and ageism. My personal favorites were Adam Chau, Wade MacDonald, and Natalia Arbelaez.

Adam Chau explored the connections we make with our smart devices and how we choose to reveal personal and private parts of our lives in this digital age. He also discussed how he uses technology in his work to create unique drawings from the same digital tool path rendering. Chau questions the relationship between craft and technology, and design and artistry, and the resulting work is powerful and delicate. To learn more about Adam, visit his site:

I was also struck by Wade MacDonald's use of mixed media and how it often highlighted the clay, rather than obscured it. Influenced heavily by the Bauhaus movement and postmodern architectural structures, MacDonald uses abstract form to define personal social narratives. His use of color, material, and space invite, and almost challenge the viewer to find areas of contemplation. To learn more about Wade, visit his site:

And finally, Natalia Arbelaez's raw discussion about how her family immigrated and assimilated into the United States in the 1980's is a story shared by many. The audience wept as she told the story of how her father nearly died, stranded on an island while trying to make it to America from Medellin, Colombia. Arbelaez uses her family's shared histories and stories as the groundwork for her figurative sculptures and explores themes of genetic memory, migration, conquest, and the passage of time. To learn more about Natalia, visit her site:

Did you go to NCECA this year? Tell us what you thought of the conference in the comments below!

Topics: Ceramic Artists