NCECA 2014: Randall Becker, Lauren Mabry, Shannon Sullivan, Jeff Campana
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NCECA 2014: Randall Becker, Lauren Mabry, Shannon Sullivan, Jeff Campana



Panel: No Lesson Plan For This ...

Panel: No Lesson Plan For This

Three graduates from Verona Area High School achieved national success. Why? Because critical thinking, creative problem solving, physical work, the joy of making, and personal responsibility are emphasized in Verona's clay program. Teacher Becker leads a panel that explores the careers of these graduates.

panelist Jeff Campana

panelist Lauren Mabry

moderator Randall Becker

panelist Shannon Sullivan

panelist Jeff Campana



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  • When I was eight, I accompanied my mother and her friends on a trip to Rowe Pottery Works, a maker of salt-glazed pottery then located in Cambridge, WI. The showroom at Rowe Pottery was center stage: racks of utilitarian works reminiscent of traditional German salt glazed pots
  • I was interested in how the pots were decorated very uniformly with deep blue cobalt brushwork, yet I could always find a mark, stamp, or gestural insignia that was indicative of a single potter’s work. It was there that I first saw a potter sitting at a kick wheel, effortlessly breathing in and out dozens of pots before my eyes. From that moment I was determined to try throwing on the wheel.
  • My chance came as a high school freshman. As I learned the basics of working with clay, I witnessed Randy’s focused, passionate drive to make art. In the studio, Randy always held himself to high standards, not afraid to pose the same difficult questions to himself that he asked to his students. My overall confidence improved as a result of successful creative interactions with Randy and his crew of experienced TAs. I also experienced the thrill of what seemed like victorious results coming out of the kiln.
  • I remember a critique where Randy stood with one of his pieces, commenting on its neatly trimmed foot and bulging belly when he “accidently” dropped it on the floor. His words made so much sense: “It’s just clay-I have the recipe, I can make more”. This attitude of detachment, where process is more important than product came serendipitously at a time for me when my family was “church shopping”. We ended up at the First Unitarian Universalist society in Madison. Here began the free and responsible search truth and meaning in my life through an open celebration of world religions. Making things became more important than having things. The question “Who are you and why are you here?” became more complex and interesting.
  • By the end of high school I spent every extra minute in the ceramics studio. I was making clay and glazes, unloading kilns, and tending to a studio practice. Ceramics gave me a reason to be excited about high school; having in progress pieces to care for was more motivating in getting to school than the horror of falling behind in chemistry, which the clay inadvertently prevented. Thanks to Randy’s selections, my interest in music evolved, appreciating Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, traditional Lakota songs, and becoming totally obsessed with Harry Nilsson’s Put the Lime in the Coconut. This shift helped me bond with my parents because I was hearing their music in a different context, presented by a different adult that I respected. Responding to and becoming involved with clay culture through Randy and his wild, creative tribe was thrilling. I became smitten with wood firing, gladly splitting wood on the weekends in exchange for kiln space. Randy took our work to NCECA through the K-12 juried show, and I won an award for my piece. This honor was both surprising, and motivating.
  • I entered college at the University of Wisconsin-EauClaire, in part because of Randy’s suggestion that I could study ceramics with Mike Weber, another student of Don Reitz. Mike and Randy fostered a similar ethos, giving permission and creating a space to explore, fail, and make a lot of work. The skills I learned with Randy and my budding fluency with ceramic artists and trends put me ahead. By spring of my freshman year I had declared a ceramics major and was fully immersed in my BFA studies, exploring painting, printmaking, and drawing as well. I also discovered the Women’s Rugby team at UWEC. This group of tough, rambunctious ladies became my friends; they followed the work-hard / play-hard policy, a way of life that was introduced to me in part by ceramics mentors, Randy and Mike
  • On November 12, 1999 I was injured in a car accident, riding with my rugby girls to our end of the season banquet. I broke several ribs, suffered lacerations on my face and neck, had collapsed a lung, and a broken, displaced pelvis. After multiple procedures, surgeries, and plenty of morphine, I was released from the hospital to recover.
  • I imagined the smallest component of my being; individual cells, being profoundly affected by my physical predicament. I was determined to be healthy and heal, with a new sense of gratitude, intention, and focus after surviving this accident and coincidentally witnessing my sister survive a similar accident only 4 months earlier. I was summoned back to ceramics and the studio became my home.
  • I finished my BFA with a body of work that was starting to hint at a developing personal language. Colorful drawings on clay emerged during this era as I explored low fire for the first time. The seductive, shiny palette opened a door for interpretations of microscopic imagery, a language I then realized I was interested in even before my accident. When I was young my sister and I were given supervised access to microscopes at my mother’s workplace, a medical lab in Madison. I remember watching her count cells, use a centrifuge, and organize specimens in special racks as I quietly pondered the viewfinder full of nuanced orbs, linear formations, and floating diagnoses.
  • Amidst the preparation for my BFA show, I participated in Hotter Than A Texas Summer, a wood-fire conference in Denton, TX organized by Brenda Lichman, a UWEC Graduate and MFA candidate at the University of North Texas. A group of students from UWEC, all interested in wood firing, piled in a van and booked it to Texas to assist Mike Weber in building and firing a small Rocket-man style anagama
  • I met with Elmer Taylor, professor of ceramics at UNT, who invited me to apply to grad school after perusing my slides in the dim light of a bar that sits conveniently between the ceramics facility and the rest of the School of Visual Art. I was at a crossroads, unattached, and having fun with my studio practice while waiting tables and doing landscaping to pay my rent and tuition. I didn’t give too much thought about what an MFA would get me. I knew that being an artist was my passion and if I studied for an MFA I could have three whole years of focused attention in my studio
  • In undergrad I happily bounced around, making a little functional ware, mostly tea bowls and bottles for wood fire, along with low fire sculpture and wall pieces. The first critique of grad school was a wake up call; it became clear to me that this lack of focus was not going to be part of my world anymore, at least not for the next three years. Grad school was a huge reality check; Elmer Taylor has a reputation for being brutally honest. There are legends of “ugly sticks” paired with the obsessive leaving of notes in grad studios with phrases like “transfer to fashion design” “don’t embarrass yourself, drop slips are on the chalkboard”, or just simply “not enough work”. A potter making in the Leach-Hamada tradition, Elmer Taylor is an exceptional instructor for a plethora or reasons, first and foremost he is well read and current on the many facets of our discipline. He took the time with me, giving me tailored reading assignments, directing me toward the resources that I needed. He told me my work was timid and full of pottery baggage.
  • I came back from Guldagergaard to finish my third year of grad school with the opportunity to teach my first ceramics class. I’d been teaching drawing the first two years of grad school, and I surprised myself with how effective I was in helping students improve their skills.
  • It wasn’t until teaching ceramics that I became dedicated to pursuing a career in teaching at the college level.
  • I am the daughter of an AFSCME organizer, who loved to quote Bob Dylan, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody”, as a part of his predictable line of interrogation regarding what I would do with an MFA in Ceramics. Teaching seemed like honest, valuable service.
  • During the first year after grad school I waited tables, taught as a freeway flier in the Dallas area, and made art. I started working with my first gallery, The Artisan Gallery, in Paoli, WI.
  • In 2006 I was hired to teach ceramics and sculpture at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. Eureka is located in Humboldt County, 270 miles north of San Francisco. Living “behind the Redwood Curtain” means being immersed in a culture rooted in a myriad of horticultural endeavors, living off the land, with a focus on sustainable technologies.
  • The students at College of the Redwoods hail from a diverse spectrum of life experience. I am inspired and motivated creatively as I watch students make connections between who they are outside of the studio with the objects they are making.
  • I recognize that because of educators like Randy Becker, Mike Weber and Elmer Taylor my desire to keep learning, to be a critical thinker, and to solve problems creatively can be achieved through a balance of teaching and maintaining a studio practice.
  • . As a tenured professor, I am committed to incorporating technology and establishing a culture of free, open, exploration in tandem with rigorous research. I
  • I believe one of the most significant opportunities I have as an educator is to train consumers by cultivating an awareness and preference for handmade things, in acknowledgement that all of my students won’t be pursuing a career in art.
  • I teach students about global perspectives and encourage travel by reporting on my ceramic endeavors, most recently in Germany, Denmark, and China.
  • I’ll begin by showing you one of the simultaneously best and worst things I’ve ever made. Yes, these are by most standards very ugly, impractical cups. The exterior is dry and porous and the interior looks like melted crayons, which might not be the the most appetizing way to ‘set off’ your morning coffee. After a ruthless grad school critique of this work, I still knew there was something honestly exciting about the cups. Something I saw, that I loved, that no one else understood. It even took me a while to realize what it was. I’d been making pottery since my freshman year of high school and struggled to see glaze as anything other than “the stuff you use to finish a pot”. Nothing was the same after I figured out I had it all backwards. My interest was the glaze, and the form needed to be the support.
  • Right around the this time in school I was painting Cylinders over and over. My piece was curated into an exhibit titled Abstract- Kansas City at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Seeing my work presented in a context with large abstract paintings, I knew I was hitting the mark I was aiming for. I continued to paint Cylinders, but branched out into more forms, but which were still based out on Cylinders.
  • Here are a couple shots of my MFA thesis show at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The body of work I completed in school encompassed the Cylinder, Curved Planes, and those Fragmented versions I mentioned. This image better portrays the scale of the pieces.
  • The piece in the forground is titled “Sliced Plane”. I made a flat, wedge shaped piece, thinking of it as a double sided painting. After the firing I cropped the piece on a brick saw until I was satisfied with the composition. With that being said, the work isn’t always finished just because it’s been fired. At this point It’s been exactly two years since I finished my thesis, and I’m very much still invested in these ideas. I’ll catch up to speed on the most work and what I think about while I’m making it.

NCECA 2014: Randall Becker, Lauren Mabry, Shannon Sullivan, Jeff Campana Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Randy Becker Lauren Mabry Shannon Sullivan Jeff Campana No Lesson Plan For This
  • 2. Archie Bray, Summer 2012
  • 3. Verona Area High School Ceramics Studio
  • 4. Clay and Glaze Mud Room
  • 5. Kiln Room/Glaze Area
  • 6. Ceramics One, Course Syllabus
  • 7. Jeff Campana, Wood-fire pitcher
  • 8. Shannon Sullivan, Wood-fire sculpture
  • 9. Lauren Mabry, Porcelain Bottle
  • 10. Advanced Ceramics Students
  • 11. Glaze Area
  • 12. Don Reitz and Bruce Breckenridge
  • 13. Ceramics One, Course Syllabus
  • 14. Buffalo Vase Buffalo Jar Randy Becker
  • 15. Pilamayaye.
  • 16. Rowe Pottery, Cambridge, WI
  • 17. Rowe Pottery, Maker’s Marks
  • 18. Randy Becker, Verona Area High School
  • 19. Randy in the VAHS lab
  • 20. Randy in the Sugar River Gallery
  • 21. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • 22. Mizusashi by Mike Weber
  • 23. Mike Weber firing “Rocket- Man” in Herbster, WI
  • 24. Elmer Taylor, University of North Texas
  • 25. Elmer in the studio
  • 26. 65x40x20 steel, ceramic
  • 27. ceramic, steel, glass 15x10x4
  • 28. Amalgam Scope, 2004 ceramic, steel, glass, ink 14x10x7
  • 29. ceramic, steel, glass 17x5x5
  • 30. 25x30x3 ceramic, acrylic
  • 31. Bulbscape #4, 2009 ceramic, acrylic 10x30x3
  • 32. Swarm Play #1, #2, #3, #4, 2012 ceramic, acrylic 17x12x2
  • 33. Collective Pull #1, 2013 ceramic, acrylic, 20x30x3
  • 34. Longie Barrier, 2013 ceramic, acrylic, 10x30x3
  • 35. Absorb, 2012 ceramic, acrylic, 10x30x3
  • 36. (Yaoli #2), 2013 porcelain, 7x6x6
  • 37. Nature Excels at this Game #2 2013, ceramic, 6x5x9
  • 38. porcelain, luster
  • 39. Grenzhausen, Germany Hjørring, Denmark with Nina Hole’s Work
  • 40. The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China
  • 41. Shannon Sullivan •
  • 42. Jeff Campana Verona Area High School Class of ‘98
  • 43. Lauren Mabry No Lesson Plan For This
  • 44. 2001- Verona Area High School, Wisconsin
  • 45. 2003, Verona Area High School, Senior Show
  • 46. 2007, Kansas City Art Institute
  • 47. 2009, University of Nebraska-Lincoln- MFA Progra
  • 48. Cylinder, 13”.5”h x 12”w x 12”d, 2012 (Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts,
  • 49. 2011, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Abstract-Kansas City
  • 50. 2013, Curved Plane, 24”h x 60”w x 15”d
  • 51. Fragmented Cylinder, 22”h x 24”w x 26”l. Earthenware, slips, glaze, 2012.
  • 52. 2012, MFA Thesis Exhibition, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • 53. 2012, MFA Thesis Exhibition, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • 54. 2013 Split Open Cylinder 16”hx 29”w x 18”d (Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Running)
  • 55. Thank You.
  • 56. 2013 Installation Photo (Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts,
  • 57. 2014, Composition of Enclosed Cylinders, 25”h x 38”w x 6”d
  • 58. Resident Space, The Clay Studio of Philadelphia,
  • 59. Instructor, The Clay Studio of Philadelphia, PA Student Work
  • 60. Instructor, The Clay Studio of Philadelphia, PA Student Work
  • 61. Student Work- University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Jomon Copy Assignment)