A heartbeat of the Northern Clay Center's MN New Institute for Ceramic Education advanced certificate program appears in the below slideshow, a winter sampling of the mutual aid and community omnipresent. Jenny Weber (first slide and a soda firing instructor at NCC) was caught one early November 2020 morning enjoying the length of her soda firing history. I still refer to notes I took while I shadowed her three years ago. Chris Bond, the other person with white hair in the next slide, amidst my wonderful cohort, is my firing partner to this day. And this February, I was honored to lead this year’s MN NICE cohort through their own soda firing. There’s Kim (last slide) relaying the position of cone 7.
I can't recommend the Minnesota New Institute for Ceramic Education enough without sounding absurd. I know it wouldn't suit everyone, but its hard to imagine anyone walking away from it unchanged for the better. Some folks use it as an in-between productive pause before an MFA, folks like me want to bypass grad school. My personal priorities included the promise of the robust inquiry of a a graduate program, the confidence to walk into any studio and be an asset, autonomy in my practice including firing to a familiarity with formulation and chemistry of materials. I also wanted a deeper sense of the context in which I found myself in choosing this particular medium. I have a master's, didn't want the debt, know myself enough to know I'm pretty self-propelled. I was also very interested in making MN home. I was asking a lot, now that I think of it. Briefly:
First, Ursula. Brilliant, ruthlessly sincere, ethical. Surgical and persistent in asking the most challenging of questions, whether its an under-developed historical reference or clay body choice. Very very supportive, very committed to seeding peer and mentor support systems, of not being a ventriloquist. I don't know how she does it. I felt driven to take as much as she could throw our way...but she's bottomless. I had first heard of the program via the podcast Red Clay Rambler and I recommend this interview if you haven't already chanced upon it.
Second, Ursula's friends. Fellow potters and artists. Each session involves guest lectures, demos, and personal session meetings with 2 affiliate artists and Ursula (there's a list to choose from of amazing local, working artists) for very intimate critiques of your work. I found this immensely transformative in the determining the direction and focus of what I made. One of my personal heroes happened to be on the list, and I couldn't believe my luck. So many amazing potters in the region.
Third, The cohort, 8-10 others. I don't know where to begin. They gave me courage to speak, to make my pots. I love trying to be there for them. Still. We're all going different places with our work, the youngest in his 30s, eldest in her 60s--this was very important and inspirational to me. We had a very intimate group to explore possibles, hear suggestions, share findings. I continue to fire the soda kiln with someone I met in the program.
Fourth, Supportive Environment. Situated within the larger, bustling nexus of Northern Clay Center, lots of artists coming and going. The administration and support staff of NCC are just great. Opportunities abound, lectures, talks, demos. I used the option to exchange labor for space and small stipend--very generous. Also very generous is the NCC lease/MN NICE alumni extension of access to materials/kilns/library 2 years after leaving. Many of the extended family of past MN NICE grads are near and present, great fun, lovely, thoughtful folks. there's Minnesota itself, so much clay culture here (see second point)--but, importantly, all these lovely potters find support in a friendly, knowledgeable public. So many easy contacts and people to meet--and as a very quiet person, this is a big deal to me. Loads of public funding for the arts in general.
Questions? Contact Samantha Longley, Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.339.8007 x309
Good luck, and if you'd like to hear more, have questions, just reach out.