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Art professor and students attend national ceramics conference

April 15, 2013
By cnp
Posted in Art

In March, two University of the Ozarks art students, Abby Kern and Dylan Eakin, accompanied Assistant Professor of Art Dawn Holder to Houston, Texas, where she presented her ceramics installation, "Monoculture."

"We attended the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Houston," Holder explained. "The NCECA conference attracts artists, educators, students, collectors, gallery owners, sculptors, potters, installation artists, hobbyist, and professionals… really a diverse crowd of people interested in all aspects of ceramics."

The group’s journey was partially funded by the Dial Grant, monies set aside to help Ozarks faculty, staff, and students pursue professional and educational enrichment opportunities.

"The Dial Grant funding was helpful to offset the cost of having a show: transporting my installation and helping pay for the extra time I spent in Houston installing and taking down my show, before and after the convention.  The funding was especially helpful to the students, as it paid for their conference fee, hotel, food, and money for gas.  I don’t think they would have been able to afford it otherwise," Holder said.

Dylan Eakin, Dawn Holder, and Abby Kern" src='data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22' data-src=

Ozarks students Dylan Eakin and Abby Kern joined Assistant Professor of Art Dawn Holder at the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference in Houston, Texas, in March.

Holder was able showcase her own installation, Monoculture, during the Concurrent, Independent Exhibitions section of the conference, which provides a venue for NCECA members to receive feedback from professional peers as well as display their work for local venues.

"Monoculture is an installation of 851 blocks of porcelain grass packed tightly together on the floor.  Each block is about 4×4 inches and the piece contains over 70,000 blades of grass total," Holder explained.

"It addresses the collision of nature and culture, and no site seems more appropriate for that battle than the suburban lawn.  Given this subject matter, I like using porcelain as a material.  It is beautiful and alluring, yet extremely fragile.  The blades of grass are so thin sometimes they break just from being touched.  It was a challenge to figure out how delicate I could work, and not have the piece completely fall apart. I worked on the project for over nine months," she said.

Kern, a junior art major from Wichita, Kan., spent about a month over the summer helping Holder develop the idea and engineer the pieces. 

"I was really glad Abby was able to see the project from beginning to end, as witnessing how these long-term projects come to life is a great learning experience for students.  I worked on this project primarily in the Ozarks ceramics studio, and was able to share the process with all my students and interested faculty as well.  In fact, over the past semester, many students and faculty helped out by chopping grass and making slabs," Holder said.


Ozarks Assistant Professor of Art Dawn Holder presented her artwork “Monoculture” recently at ceramics conference in Houston, Texas. Monoculture contains more than 70,000 blades of porcelain grass.

Holder, who has attended the NCECA conference for several years, was happy to share the experience with her students.

"Dylan and Abby are upper level students who have shown particular passion and dedication to creating ceramic work," Holder said. "Both of them plan to pursue careers as ceramic artists, and I knew the conference would provide a wealth of resources, information, and inspiration. I hoped that seeing all of the possible avenues that ceramics can take would open their eyes to some viable career possibilities.  I also hoped that exposing them to a wide range of innovative, high caliber ceramic art would inspire them to work harder, and to see how seriously they need to take their studio practice if they want to succeed in the art world."

Kern agreed. "I learned a lot from the various lectures that occurred throughout the week. I also got a lot of information on post-baccalaureate and grad school programs, and I was able to meet the faculty members and some of the students involved in these various programs," she said. "I think the most exciting part for me was seeing so many people who were working in the ceramics field as successful artists. It was really encouraging and reassured me in knowing that a career in ceramics is what I want to pursue."

Kern hopes to work on a few new pieces for the Student Juried section of next year’s conference.  Holder considers experiences like this a vital part of a small art program, and hopes even more Ozarks students will be able to attend the conference in 2014.