Art, Art History and Design, School of


Date of this Version



Presented to the Faculty of

The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska

In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements F or the Degree of Master of Fine Arts

Major: Art

Under the Supervision of Professor Peter Pinnell Lincoln, Nebraska April,


I am a ceramic vessel maker who has developed a passion for the aesthetic, historical and technical aspects of ceramics, merging the three in my work. Identifying the objects I make as vessels rather than pots (the contemporary term for the word pottery) allows me to clarify where they belong in the world and my intentions for their function. My vessels included in this exhibition primarily focus on spiritual symbolism rather than the traditional daily uses of pottery. My work is influenced by spiritually symbolic elements used in the creation of religious architecture. Specific inspirations include the temples, palaces and mosques of the Islamic world and the Czech Republic, and in particular the domes, spires and finials that pierce the sky and reach heavenward. Spires and finials of this nature symbolize mankind's journey from mortality into the eternal realms. I am drawn to these examples for their striking silhouettes and their architectural form. Luxury or ceremonial wares that were originally made to reside in holy or other culturally significant edifices are also an influence. Such examples include Islamic metalwork and Chinese ritual bronze vessels that were made for and owned by royalty, religious leaders and other prominent persons. My work refers to the types of historical vessels that were used in a palace to celebrate an important occasion or used in a temple to enhance the sacredness of a ceremony. Rather than the specifics of these rituals or ceremonies, I am intrigued with the sense of spirituality that the historical objects embody. The glaze and containment of space inside my vessels are equally important to their exteriors. These interiors serve as metaphors for the sacred inner workings of religious architecture and are symbolic of the body that houses the spirit. The reverential qualities inherent in these objects resonate with my spiritual nature and they inspire me to make this kind of work. Potters and vessel makers often limit themselves by describing ceramics as functional or non-functional, with no breathing room between the two categories. The work I make is functional , but it is removed from the everyday utility of a pot that you would eat or drink from or put it in the dishwasher after use. In this case, I am more concerned about the spiritual symbolism and the metaphoric aspects of the work. Its function is instead more closely related to that of lavishly decorated historical vessels, especially those made of precious materials, which were used to elevate the atmosphere of a ritual or ceremony and to differentiate the sacred from the mundane. These ceramic vessels are finished with glazes that communicate the same degree of beauty and luxury as those historical objects that were made of precious metals and inlaid base metals. Historical reference plays a major role in the work. Throughout the history of ceramics, potters have been influenced by metalwork prototypes. However, the translation from metal to ceramics alters the qualities of the objects in significant ways. Glaze applied to these forms softens their details and smoothes their silhouettes. While glaze adds richness and beauty, it also hides the crisp detailing that can occur on certain parts of the vessel, such as where the body joins a neck, handle or spout. My approach to working with this material of clay is distinctive and goes far beyond just being historically and architecturally based. I seek to take advantage of clay's ability to retain carefully defined and metal-like details while using luxurious metallic finishes that are only possible through the ceramic process. Bringing spiritual symbolism to a material plane is at the heart of my work. The materials I use and my inspirations are both avenues for communication. By uniting the spiritual symbolism of architecture, the reverential qualities of ceremonial vessels and historical references, I am able to embed my philosophies, experiences and aesthetics in my work.