New Guide to Graduate Programs in Ceramic Art Available for Download

Work by Chris Staley, ceramics faculty member at Penn State University.

Work by Chris Staley, ceramics faculty member at Penn State University.

Tomorrow we are heading to Philadelphia for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference so I decided to unofficially designate this week “Education Week” here at Ceramic Arts Daily. And to kick off Education Week, we have a new download to offer: Graduate Programs in Ceramic Art: Profiles of Several Top Institutions  for Obtaining an MFA in Ceramics. After many requests to offer a compilation of Ceramics Monthly’s MFA Factor series as a free download, we have made it a reality. If you’re an undergraduate trying to determine where to go for your MFA in ceramics, this will help you get started in your search. If you’re already in graduate school, it will keep you informed of what’s going on in Ceramics MFA programs at other institutions. With works by the ceramics faculty as well as graduate students, and a snapshot of the facilities and MFA program highlights, this collection of some of the best graduate ceramics programs serves as a window into what is coming in terms of new work and new inspiration in ceramic art! For today’s post, I am presenting a sampling of what you’ll find in the guide. Since we’re headed to Pennsylvania, I thought I’d pick a great Pennsylvania school: Penn State University. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


The professors in the ceramic area at Penn State University believe that each student has their own unique way of expressing their thoughts and feelings in clay. As a result we are open to a wide spectrum of self expression: from mixed media installations to the student making utilitarian pots. In the end it’s the qualities and quality of the work that are most important.


The educational experience includes individual talks, field trips, and unique assignments. Through discussion of a wide range of a wide range of topics we challenge and encourage students to realize their full potential.


The faculty often have their own unique perspectives to share with students yet they are unified in their commitment to assist students in becoming the best artist they can be. They are also committed to cultivating a healthy and supportive community of students that love to come to the studio to work.




Chris Staley has a BFA from Wittenburg University and an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. “The essence of making pots for me is about being human. It’s about fragility and strength. It’s about the intimate moment when the handle of a cup touches the hand. Pots are about potential. Pots can create a world of slow time where meaning can be found. With technology spreading at a very increasing pace, my need to feel the world seems essential.”

Left: Stoneware bowl, 6 in. (15 cm), 2005.

Del Harrow received his BS from the University of Oregon, cum laude and his MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. “I think of each of my pieces as an abstract narrative whose physical components are a collection of forms, images and found objects organized in a space,” says Harrow. “I don’t intend for the work to have a singular or specific meaning. They are abstractions of the world. They are products of a flow of recycling, abstracting and borrowing fragments of images ideas and objects.” Harrow’s work can be seen at Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids Michigan.

Left: City of Porcelain and Plastic, 30 ft. (9 m) in length, handbuilt and slip-cast porcelain, plastic tubing, plastic bottles, mild steel wire, aquarium pump, water, and some glaze, water drip oxidation, 2006.


Liz Quackenbush holds a BFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology, the School for American Craftsmen. “The terra cotta pieces I make are inspired by ceramics made during the 13th through the 17th centuries in Iran, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and England,” says Quackenbush. “I call it my ‘crazy quilt’ homage to ceramic history because I patch together many different inspirations.” She is represented by AKAR in Iowa City, Iowa.

Left: Stacked Frogs, 14 in. (35.5 cm) in height, terra cotta, majolica, gold luster, glass enamels, 2006.


This post was excerpted from Graduate Programs in Ceramic Art: Profiles of Several Top Institutions for Obtaining an MFA in Ceramics, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily Subscribers.

Graduate Students and Alums
urmila mohan

I completed my undergraduate education in communication design and anthropology before joining the MFA program in ceramics at Penn State seven years later. I am glad I took the time between undergraduate and grad school to work, mature and evolve. I think this has made me a better student and artist. I am not actively pursuing an exhibition career; however, I have participated in group shows in Philadelphia and New York. After graduate school, I would like to pursue a doctoral study program in visual/material studies.


ian meares

I took eight years off between undergraduate and graduate school. I spent that time as a resident, operating my own studio and the studios of others. I was also a special student. While in school, I have accepted exhibition offers but not sought them out. I do not want to spread myself too thin. After completing my degree, I plan to seek exhibitions, residencies and teaching opportunities as a means to expand the scope of my work and to sustain myself.

douglas peltzman

Since receiving my BFA in ceramics three years ago, I have subsequently been a student, studio potter, ceramics tech, and adjunct professor. These experiences have reinforced my desire to remain true to making functional ceramic artwork, but more importantly, to expand my critical dialog. What attracted me most to Penn State was the Intimacy of the program (with a nearly 1:1 faculty to student ratio), and the diversity of its faculty, with whom I immediately felt a strong connection upon interviewing. I feel strongly that this will be a time of immense growth, where I am able to focus on developing my work in this supportive and challenging environment


Highlights of the Facilities

  • 4 private graduate studios, approximately 200-225 square feet each
  • 4 gas kilns – 1 updraft, 3 downdraft including 1 Blauuw car kiln, 1 front loading kiln
  • 4 electric kilns
  • Two chambered wood/salt kiln
  • 1 salt kiln
  • 24 electric wheels
  • 2 clay mixers ?
  • Clay pugger
  • Manual extruder
  • Slab roller
  • Spray booth
  • Common plaster mixing room, woodshop and digital lab
Program Details

  • 2-year program, requiring a small group thesis exhibition.
  • 4 applicants accepted per year.
  • Graduate Student Assistantships available each academic year in exchange for 10 hours of work per week, assistantships include full tuition waiver, for 9-14 credits per semester,

    annual stipend and most ceramic materials.

  • Tolulope O.

    How can some one participate or apply for this program.

  • Wil, check out post-bacc programs in ceramics.

  • Haideh S.

    That is great but what about those who are out of America?

  • Anyone out there that can tell me how feasable it would be to get into MFA without a BFA to go in with? I have a Bachelors of Science and never took any college art classes but have always been very active art/ceramic focused outside of school and now outside of work. I would like to change courses now and go into it full force. Any advice? thanks!

  • Akinsanya E.

    I like the programe,pleas how can I applie for this programe? I am a graduate of ceramics art and design.

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