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Artwork by ODU Students, Professor Selected for "500 Tiles" Book

Artistic works created by five Old Dominion University students and one faculty member appear in the latest edition of Lark Books' "500 Tiles," an inspiring collection of international work edited by Susan Tourtillott and juried by Angelica Pozo.

The student artists, Sumner Bradshaw, Mary-Paige Cannon, Haley Mitchem, Ashley Padaon and Jennifer Smith, were students in adjunct assistant professor Anna Freeman's Introduction to Ceramics course in spring 2007. As part of their course requirements, each student created and submitted three entries for the Lark Books competition. The images, one each for Bradshaw, Cannon, Mitchem, and Padaon, and two for Smith, represent their first published artworks.

"The students used words or phrases that they noticed in their daily lives, especially in advertising, as starting points for the imagery they created on their tiles," Freeman explains. "I demonstrated multiple techniques for creating surface imagery on clay, and students began the process by selecting their words or phrases, making sketches to develop their ideas, and meeting with me before working on their tiles."

According to Freeman, all of the students used a white stoneware clay to make their three hand-built (slab rolled) tiles, applying a black underglaze for dark areas, and allowing the natural color of the clay to create contrast for the light areas. All the tiles were black and white.

"They experimented with techniques for creating surface imagery on clay that were completely new to them at the time," Freeman said.

To create the surface imagery, the students utilized one of three methods in the process: sgraffito, which involves brushing multiple layers of a black underglaze on the clay and then carving away areas of the black underglaze to reveal the light clay beneath; mishima, an inlay technique of Korean origin where the clay is carved and brushed with the dark underglaze, and then the surface is scraped or wiped to leave the dark underglaze remaining only in the recessed, carved areas; and a third process that involveds pressing found objects into the clay to create surface texture, and then using the inlay technique to accentuate the textured areas.

Mitchem, a graphic design major, was surprised to learn one of her pieces had been selected for the publication.

"I'm usually very hard on my work; I guess you could say I'm a bit of a perfectionist," Mitchem said. "But like they always say, you are your own worst critic! I'm very happy and honored to have been chosen in an international competition. The other students who were chosen in my class are all very good artists, so I'm happy to say that I was chosen along with them as well."

Smith, a print and photo media major, was equally surprised when she learned that two of her three submissions had been selected.

"When I found out I could not believe it at first," she said, "but then it finally sunk in and I was ecstatic. As part of our grade in ceramics we had to enter our tiles in the contest, but I never thought that my work would have gotten picked."

"The class was really fun and a great learning experience," Smith added.

Bradshaw, an art education major, was equally enthusiastic about the class.

"I loved the class," she said. "My whole class submitted designs for the book and therefore I am honored to have been chosen. Another of my teachers, Rick Nickel, told me that my work had been published. Naturally I was very excited; I ordered my copy of the book that week."

Nickel, associate professor of art education and ceramics, also created a tile that was selected for the book. His earthenware tile, titled "Cars Men Drive" (pictured), was created using engobes - a liquid clay slip applied to the surface of a clay object to give color to the piece or improve the surface texture - and a copper wash.

"Anna has had students published before in the Lark "500 Pitchers" book," said Nickel, who also is the ceramics program director. "This year five of her students and six images were published in one book. It is quite an accomplishment for our students, for Mrs. Freeman and our ceramics program."

This article was posted on: June 6, 2008

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