Okay… I’m gonna show my age here. Back in the ’90s (one of the rare periods where fashion for potters and the general public aligned), there was a band named Blind Melon. The finer points of their music can be endlessly debated… but the lasting impact of their video for the song “No Rain” is not up for discussion. In the video, a young lady dressed in a bee costume walks around a rust belt city. She’s a little different… she doesn’t quite fit in.

Sound familiar?

Spoiler alert… in the middle of the video, we see our protagonist looking through some gates with wide eyes. She flings open the gates and finds… a whole meadow full of people frolicking in bee costumes. For vast legions of NCECA attendees, this is what the conference feels like–our one chance to debate the merits of different deflocculants and replacements for Albany Slip.

While I love the programming on the main stages at NCECA, I’ve always had a deep affection for the opportunities that the conference gives for smaller, more intimate interactions. From the first time I attended, I always seemed to find myself in the Topical Discussions and NCECA Connections sessions. For the uninitiated, these are small talks and discussion groups that take place simultaneously–sometimes with several discussions taking place in the same ballroom or space.

These presentations are your chance to CONNECT with other likeminded folks around very specialized topics. If you’ve been feeling a little bit like the bee girl, peruse this year’s Topical Discussions and NCECA Connections. They start at 5:15 pm on the Thursday and Friday evenings of the conference.


NCECA Topical Discussions – Thursday, March 26th – 5:15 pm

Survivors: Finding Opportunities for International Students and Artists in U.S. by Yoshi Fujii
This discussion group provides international students, artists, and hosting institutions an opportunity to share the participants’ concerns and experiences on complex immigration processes while creating artwork in the U.S.
History in the Making by Susie Silbert
Today, artists across a broad spectrum incorporate history and historical ceramics into their work. But for most artists and in most schools, history is rarely a focus. Come join a discussion about the role of history in making and learn strategies to incorporate research into your own practice.
Sustainable Innovations in the World of Ceramics by Cait Lepla
Come and learn about some of the innovative ceramic projects that have been revolutionizing sustainable design! Does your practice include some green initiatives, or ideas for wild experiments? We’re talking water filters, kiln design, living walls, creative use of byproducts, upcycling, and more!
High Iron Glazes, Temmokus, Tea Dusts, Hare’s Fur and Oil Spot, ancient glazes brought to life by Lively Experiments by Leonard Smith
This forum will focus on the rise of black glazes (Tenmokus) in the Song Dynasty in China, their use in the Tea Ceremony, the mystery of Oil Spots and their decline.
Experiments in Low Temperature Wood-Firing by Luke Sheets
I want to discus the merits and drawbacks of low temperature wood firing with others who fire wood kilns to earthenware temperatures and have a discussion of clays, slips, and glazes suited to this process. I want to discus the merits and drawbacks of low temperature wood firing with others who fire wood kilns to earthenware temperatures and have a discussion of clays, slips, and glazes suited to this process.
TAKING RISKS: Practical Decision Making for a Career in Art by Alexis Gregg
Now is the time to specialize and personalize your career. Opportunity is abundant and the world is open to research and exploration. Alexis Gregg, Wesley Harvey, and Andrea Moon will lead a topical discussion on the risks taken to develop and customize a professional career in Art.
Not For Humans: Functional Ceramics in Wildlife Conservation by Nathan Lynch
Ceramicists can create ecological solutions. What is the potential for functional ceramic forms that benefit non-human species? For five years Nathan Lynch (California College of the Arts) worked in collaboration with scientists to restore habitat for endangered seabirds off the coast of California.
Studio Apprentice by Steve Theberge
Building on the New Apprenticeship Project panel, this breakout session will provide an opportunity for current and former apprentices to compare notes on their experiences, build community, and offer their ideas for studio-based education. For those thinking about becoming apprentices this is an opportunity to hear more about the nut and bolts of this kind of training. We will focus of how an apprenticeship model can be relevant to contemporary ceramic practice. All are welcome.
Maintaining an Authentic Voice by NCECA 2015 Emerging Artists
The 2015 NCECA Emerging Artists will all talk about the professional development efforts that have brought them to this point in their careers and the difficulty of maintaining an authentic voice in a vast ocean of social media.
Electric Kiln Maintenance by Arnold Howard
Learn to do basic electric kiln repairs yourself. This session will include Kiln Sitter and digital controller operation and diagnostics. The information will apply to all brands of electric kilns.

NCECA Connections – Friday, March 27th – 5:15 pm

On the Tenure-Track by Heather Mae Erickson
Let’s build a foundation for communication amongst tenure track professors. Small groups (depending on numbers) will continue discussions via online video conferencing platform so we may foster relationships/support between tenure-track educators for the future of ceramic education.
The Challenges of Teaching Ceramics at a Small Liberal Arts, State Universities and Community Colleges by Scott Dooley
Small art departments, often with only one full-time ceramics/3-D instructor on staff, are required to be creative with curriculum and course structuring. Ceramics instructors at smaller liberal arts colleges, state universities and community colleges take on many curricular responsibilities beyond the ceramic media area. This session will discuss the complexities, challenges and rewards involved in delivering curriculum and content depth in smaller college and university settings.
Across the Table, Across the Land by Namita Wiggers
Learn how NCECA plans to illuminate our collective efforts in communities across the land. Join the curatorial team of Michael Strand and Namita Wiggers to learn how YOU can participate in NCECA’s 50th Anniversary project celebrating ceramics, food culture and public engagement.
Devices for Creating Dialogue by Stephanie Rozene
We will discuss how through residencies, conferences and workshops, as well as phone conversations, or even meals we create dialog but when we learn that the issues and ideas that we are investigating connect with the interests and imaginations of each other our studio practices becomes richer.
Clay online: Exploring hybrid studio classes by Jessica Gardner
Explore the challenges and rewards of digital classrooms. Discover what Facebook and social media teach us about online education. Discuss how a vibrant digital community can reinforce professionalism, while allowing for the free exchange of images, technical questions and aesthetic critique.
Working with Small College Art Galleries: for Artists and Gallery Directors by Michael Hough
For small college gallery directors, others involved with theses exhibition spaces, and artists interested in showing in them. Conversations about funding, space limitations and how these exhibitions are important to a college’s clay program and to the institution and the community.
Second Annual Cup Swap by Spring Montes
Who doesn’t like making new friends, while getting an amazing cup? Bring a cup, give a cup, get a cup, it’s that simple. Mingle, share, add to your collection of cups, friends, and NCECA memories.
SEA Socially Engaged Art and Craft by Nicole Gugliotti
Craft artists working with social engagement will have a chance to get together to network and discuss organizing in hopes of creating a future opportunity (symposia, etc) for those of us researching and working in isolation throughout the year.
From Puddle to Pond – Making the Transition from the Community College to a BFA Program in Ceramics by Trisha Kyner, Lauren Tolbert, Jennifer Esders
This session addresses the transition from community college to a BFA ceramics program from the point of view of both student and professor. What does it takes to get in and how can students thrive?
For locations, check the NCECA App or the most recent version of the program. See you there, fellow bees!