Claytopia, NCECA’s 2019 conference in Minneapolis will feature a Make-In Studio, a pop-up workspace in the heart of the convention center where anyone can come to touch clay, make pots, meet new people, and collaborate, celebrate, and cogitate together. This pilot project is an opportunity to get involved hands-on in the conference, side by side with fellow attendees. All are welcome: those just starting out in clay, K-12 teachers, university students and professors, professional and aspirational potters. The room is a drop-in, spontaneous space for expression, sharing, and experimentation. We might be decorating, trimming, and pulling handles on each other’s pots. The studio will be stocked with wheels (including a couple of treadle wheels), tools, slips, and wild North Carolina clay.

Logistical support and equipment provided by Northern Clay Center, NCECA volunteers, and a team of studio potters who are donating their time will make it all run smoothly. Master clay maker Takuro Shibata will come by to answer questions about the STARworks wild-sourced clays that we’ll be using. Shelves filled with greenware will make an evolving exhibition of our creative activities. Round tables will offer opportunities for discussions and hanging out. 

Although the focus will be on spontaneous making, we have scheduled two one-hour informal demos, each featuring six potters, to provoke and inspire: Pitchers (Thursday, March 28 at 1pm) and Personal and Political Pots (Friday, March 29 at 10:30am). Among our demonstrators will be Michael Kline, Simon Levin, Michael McCarthy, Candice Methe, Mariko Paterson, Sam Taylor, Nate Wilever, and others. 

As a long-time participant in NCECA conferences, I proposed the Make-In Studio to contribute to the many ongoing efforts to make the conference broader and more inclusive. I used to feel an outsider at NCECA, since I don’t have a degree in ceramics, a position in academia, or any institutional affiliation. Without the grounding of grad school and job interviews or alumni gatherings, I meandered through the offerings, trying to address the quirky questions that arose within my own life as a young studio potter. At some point I decided to try to engage, to open doors for those who might feel similarly peripheral.

Over a couple decades, I have contributed programming on issues of personal interest: early American ceramic history, apprenticeship, writing and publishing, and most recently, looking at how the ceramic world is portrayed on screens. The Make-In takes a different tack, building on the response that POW! (Pots on Wheels!), the collective that I belong to, has received whenever we’ve come to NCECA. The folks who came by to throw pots on our treadle wheel or decorate greenware or just hang out at our truck-gallery and street-side studio experienced something different from other conference activities. We were makers doing what we like to do: making. And we were meeting new people and enjoying each other at the same time. I wanted to expand this casual and spontaneous sense of community by setting up a larger open studio where more folks could simultaneously work with clay during the conference. 

If you are at Claytopia and get the itch to get your hands dirty after seeing the shows and hearing about all the possibilities, techniques, and ideas swirling through the presentations, stop by the Make-In Studio. We’ll be generating an improvisational three-dimensional hands-on conversation, meeting each other on the terms of the clay itself, and enjoying the diverse perspectives, approaches, and stories that make up our community. 

The conference takes place March 27–30, 2019 at the Minneapolis Convention Center located at 1301 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55403. Visit to learn more about the event.