ceramics

The quiet force behind the Kansas City Art Institute's Department of Ceramics describes falling in love with clay and finding inspiration in Kansas City's architecture (in part by riding a bike around town and breaking into abandoned buildings when she was an undergrad herself). 

Guest:

  • Cary Esser, chair, Department of Ceramics, The Kansas City Art Institute
courtesy Kansas City Art Institute

Cary Esser, longtime chair of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute, credits a high school classmate in the 1970s for her introduction to ceramics. 

As Esser recalls, her best friend, Julie, was taking a class, and "truthfully, I didn't know what ceramics was." 

Esser visited the basement classroom and saw her friend throwing pottery on the wheel. "I really had one of those moments where I just looked at what she was doing, and I just said, 'That is the coolest thing. I'm going to do that.'"

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

For thousands of years, artisans have been making musical instruments out of clay — from whistles and rattles to ocarinas and horns. That tradition continues with two Kansas City artists who've turned ceramic vessels into a sonic experience. 

courtesy of the artist

A celebration of clay — in all its forms — is underway. More than 100 ceramics exhibitions are on view in Kansas and Missouri, timed with the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) conference in Kansas City. 

But as more artists experiment with digital tools, some of the artwork on display hardly seems like clay. Case in point: Unconventional Clay, an exhibition at Project Space in the Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

Ryan Collerd / Courtesy of Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Lauren Mabry has some advice for future graduates of the Kansas City Art Institute.

Mabry is one of the celebrity ceramicists who’ll be in town later this month for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. She earned her BFA from the Art Institute in 2007, and less than a decade later was awarded $75,000 in unrestricted cash from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. In naming Mabry one of its 2015 Pew Fellows, the center lauded Mabry as “a ceramicist whose expressive and colorful ‘dimensional paintings’ … play with form, texture, color and scale and blur the boundaries between ceramics, abstract painting and sculpture.”

courtesy: Empty Bowls KC

One man has been driving all over Kansas City for eight months transporting hundreds of fragile handmade bowls.

 

“I show up with newspaper and a mish-mash of boxes that I’ve grabbed. Right now, I’ve probably got four or five boxes [of bowls] and before the end of the day I will have a few more,” says ceramic artist LeRoy Grubbs.