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International Symposium Examines Current State of Ceramic Art and Industry

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Contemporary Issues in Clay: A British Perspective

Throughout history, ceramics has been mainly prized for its function and decoration. Yet this ancient medium is in a dynamic state of evolution. While it retains both artistic and domestic value, increasingly, ceramics straddles the worlds of art and industry.

The Ceramics Program at State University of New York at New Paltz will explore these new perspectives in a two-day symposium titled Contemporary Issues in Clay: A British Perspective. The conference will be held on November 3 and 4 at SUNY New Paltz. British artists Clare Twomey and Julian Stair will present keynote addresses. All events are free and open to the public.

Contemporary Issues in Clay: A British Perspective will bring together the ceramic community of artists, teachers, collectors and writers, along with students, alumni and the general public. Events include presentations and dialogues with artists, workshop activities, exhibitions in several sites on campus, and discussions surrounding issues that are critical to the field of ceramics from an international perspective.

The Symposium begins on Friday morning with sessions on campus. Students and faculty from more than a dozen colleges and universities in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, along with twelve regional high schools identified as having strong ceramics programs, will participate in workshops, tour the state-of-the-art SUNY New Paltz facilities, and experience a variety of ceramic processes through demonstrations conducted by current college students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics program.

Highlights of the two-day conference are keynote addresses by Clare Twomey and Julian Stair who will share perspectives on the state of ceramic design and industry in Great Britain and present their own work. These innovative artists each are leaders in their field. Their exhibitions and critical writings have had a significant influence on British and European ceramics.

Clare Twomey has worked with clay since studying at Edinburgh College of Art and Design and The Royal College of Art graduating in 1996. Her interest in clay is as a material that offers the potential to be molded and transformed. Themes in Clare's work are influenced by observations of human interaction and political behavior. She continues to develop work which pursues her interest in space, architectural interventions and the gallery as destination.

Critic Mark Currah states that “Twomey…is excited by the ephemeral nature of her material and takes pleasure in its fragility, giving the breaking of it the same exhilarating possibilities encountered on walking over virgin snow.” This is experienced in her piece Consciousness/conscience (picture reference #1), in which 3000 units of bone china created a temporary floor at the Ceramic Biennial in Korea, were crushed by each step of the viewer.

b]Julian Stair received the European Achievement Award in 2004 from the Worlds Craft Council for his work in ceramics. For Stair, there has always been a subtle relationship between form, material, and a subdued palette as well as an interest in the temporal nature of pottery and its ambiguous occupation of space. His recent work includes funerary ware in a series of lidded jars for cremated ashes and life size sarcophagi. Stair states that in his work he “extend(s) the familiar identity of the pot as a metaphor for the body.” Stair was born in Bristol, England and studied at Camberwell College of Arts and the Royal College of Art, both in London. In 2002 he completed a PhD in 20th-century ceramic critical writing at the Royal College of Art. He is a trustee of the Crafts Council and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Dr. Stair is a Research Fellow - Ceramics Practice & Theory at Camberwell College of the Arts.

Julian Stair works on a monumental pot

[Julian writes for the national ceramic and craft press and has recently contributed a feature review for Art in America. He continues to develop his historical research into early 20th-century English ceramics which incorporate a variety of themes including Modernism, the vernacular revival, “Orientalism,” and abstraction.

The Contemporary Issues in Clay Symposium is free and open to all. Space at some of the events is limited. A complete schedule of events follows. To register, visit

All events are held on the campus of SUNY New Paltz. Workshops and demonstrations are held in the Fine Arts Building. Lectures are presented in Lecture Center 102. For questions that cannot be addressed by email, call 845-257-3830.


Contemporary Issues in Clay: A British Perspective
2006 Ceramic Symposium at SUNY New Paltz
November 3 - 4, 2006


Friday, November 3
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (On-going) Open studio in Fine Arts Building:
• Students’ work on display in Fine Arts Building Rotunda, Smiley Art Building and Student Art Gallery SAB 116
• Ceramics Majors and Alumni talking and working with visiting students
• Digital slide show of student work, studio life and departmental events

1:30 – 4:30 p.m. Simultaneous programming with small group discussions including:
• Detailed career options and opportunities in clay
• Discussions with alumni regarding experiences for life after school and how to think creatively about planning ones future in career of ceramics.
• Tours and questions/answers about study at SUNY New Paltz
• Review regarding the pursuit of various degree studies at SUNY New Paltz, BA, BS, BFA and the combined BFA and Art Ed degree route
• Presentation on United Kingdom education options for ceramic students
• Presentation BFA, MFA and PhD British students’ work led by visiting artists Julian Stair and Clair Twomey

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. American Artists guest slide lecture

6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Reception

7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Opening and Welcome: Anat Shiftan and Mary Roehm, SUNY New Paltz
Slide Presentation: Clare Towmey and Julian Stair focusing on their studio practice

Saturday, November 4

8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Registration

9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks and Plan for the Day

9:15 – 10:15 a.m. Ceramics Today: A British Perspective, Interpretation and Context
Speakers: Clare Twomey and Julian Stair

10:15 – 10:45 a.m. Open Discussion

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The Emergence of British Studio Ceramics Speaker: Julian Stair
This lecture examines the relationship between early ceramic practice and wider critical debates in early 20th-century British art.

12:30 – 1:00 p.m. Open Discussion

1:00 – 1:45 p.m. LUNCH

1:45 – 2:45 p.m. Ceramics Art - Art and Industry Speaker: Clare Twomey
This lecture presentd case studies of UK and European artists working with ceramic industry.

2:15 – 2:45 p.m. Open Discussion

2:45 – 3:15 p.m. Bricks and Monumental Pots
A presentation of Julian Stair’s monumental works made in collaboration with industry.

3:15 - 3:45 p.m. Open Discussion

3:45 – 4:45 p.m. Panel discussion on themes and ideas developed in this day’s events.

4:15 – 4:30 p.m. Closing remarks

6:00 p.m. Bus ride to dinner

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The State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley between New York City and Albany. New Paltz is ranked 5th among the best public universities and 42nd among public and private universities in the North that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs, according to the U.S. News & World Report's rankings for America's Best Colleges 2006.

Degrees are offered in the liberal arts and sciences, which serve as a core for professional programs in the fine and performing arts, education, healthcare, business and engineering.