When the doors open on the West Virginia University Ceramics Sale Dec. 2-3, customers will find the products traditionally available at the semi-annual event, plus new pieces that mix innovative techniques and technology.
WVU’s School of Art & Design is one of only a few schools left in the nation with a ceramics production line, bringing student productions to the general public.
“Hosting ceramics sales give us the opportunity to start our students at the beginning of the planning process,” said Kelly O’Briant, a post-graduate research fellow in the WVU College of Creative Arts. “We discuss the pieces we will make, the glazes, the techniques and the prices. Students are involved in every step."
O’Briant leads the ceramics production class responsible for creating the hundreds of items available at the sale. Aside from traditional methods, O’Briant studies the use of 3D printing technologies in ceramics, an art she is passing on to her students.
“3D printed ceramics have a very different look than hand-made pieces,” said O’Briant. “It’s important for students to learn both techniques because it gives them a different perspective on the art, a perspective that could appeal to a different client base.”
O’Briant has also worked with her students to make new glazes, a technique that begins in the chemistry classroom.
“We teach our students the science and foundations of ceramics,” said O’Briant. “They have a full understanding of every aspect, from making a glaze that is food-safe to making it visually appealing.”
O’Briant and her students have found that natural, earthy glazes sell best in Morgantown, most likely because of the mountainous landscape. They have added a purple glaze to their repertoire of greens, reds and neutrals for the sale.
Students also made use of a ram press this semester, a machine that presses clay into a mold to create uniform pieces. One of the new designs is a plate created by Ronan Peterson, a visiting artist at WVU. The models will be available at the sale.
“Students interacted with Peterson on many levels, from individual critiques to demonstrations,” said O’Briant. “Watching him work and discuss his studio practice gave the students insight into what it’s like to be a full-time potter.”
Because the pieces at the sale are student made, they sell for 50-80% below retail prices.
“Shoppers really get a bargain at this sale, because our students work is outstanding, but at a fraction of the cost of typical ceramics,” said O’Briant. “We’re happy to be able to put our art into the Morgantown community.”
The sale runs 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Creative Arts Center lobby. Cash, check and credit cards are accepted.