Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Alice Drew

Functionality and beauty in art are two things that Alice has down. Her plates, cups, bowls, teapots, and other vessels can all serve functionally while retaining their individual beauty. Her vessels have simple shapes that come from a premeditated pattern. When she makes them, she uses extreme precision and is always careful to leave her finished work as clean as possible. She is meticulous in where she places her designs and what colors they will be. She puts her patterns down on to the wet clay using a screen pattern that she makes herself. Then she carefully assembles the decorated slabs and coaxes whatever shape she prefers out of the conjoined slabs. She is careful not to smudge her design work throughout this process.
Her next step is the bisque firing and then she applies a simple transparent glaze to allow the natural white of the porcelain to show through. The result is a graceful vessel with uninterrupted flowing contours and delicate designs.

Kat Stairs

Kala Stein

Upon thinking about Kala Stein’s work I find myself wondering why I like it so much. I don’t usually like sleek, pristine modern day furniture and dishware. I think what draws me to Stein’s work are her combinations of modern abstract with organic landscape and two dimensional surfaces with three dimensional forms.

Her vase pieces that play with dimensions fascinate me with their convincing a silhouette shapes overlapped by the bulge of the vase form. And yet both silhouette and form are functional. These vase’s seem to tease the age old human obsession with order. We like to put labels and restrictions on things.  Stein is arguing that a perceivably two dimensional surface can be a functional three dimensional object. The way that Stein describes vases is “when the human meets the actual world.” By this I’m assuming she is talking about the functionality of vases and their reference to the human body coupled with their purpose of displaying flowers.

It seems like the way humans deal with the actual world is to build over it with cement and tarmac. Stein seems to be of a more “back to the landers” point of view in which humans should be engaged in the world around them: looking and wondering and not destroying. She captures this thought in her hills and valleys bowls. They display the beauty of the places she has lived in and yet manage to be flat, simple, and glazed in solid colors. This is the combination of organic landscape with modern abstraction that I’m so drawn to.

Also, you all should check out the web sight to Cuisine Culture. They have some pretty great resources.

Kala Stein

Kala Stein’s ceramic work is outstanding and I can see her design background in her work. I find it interesting that there seems to be a pattern with ceramic artists. Food. Its what brings us together and artists notice this and create work that can be used in those settings. What makes Stein’s work so different is the way all of her dishes stack together. She talked about how the wavy bowl sides when stacked, resemble rolling hills from her childhood. Not only do they look amazing, the fact that they fit together so perfectly is icing on the cake.


“The vessel is about the empty space.” I found this quote interesting because it’s so true and yet we don’t think about it that way. The empty space inside the container is what makes the container valuable and usable.


I knew nothing of slip casting so learning about that process was intriguing. I didn’t know that’s how toilets were made. This method appeals to me because you can mass produce the same art piece and know that each one is going to be perfect and fit together with the rest. Now, I can imagine make a few replicas, like 10 or so, but 1700? I cant imagine the time, effort, and amount of clay that goes into such an undertaking. The final product was incredible and gave you a sense of infinite clay containers.


Her graphic design side really came through when she showed us the split slip casting pieces. She talked about the silhouette and three dimensional facets of her pieces and how they resemble famous artworks. I have never seen something like that, a vessel pulled in half and yet it still joins and functions.


For someone who works mainly in the digital field, I very much enjoyed Kala Steins work. Her sense of order and pattern impressed me and now I want to try slip casting. 

-Jordan Smith

Kala Stein

Kala Stein is a ceramist who works mainly with slip casting. Because she builds a lot of her pieces from molds, she is able to reuse the molds and recreate the same pieces over again. This enables her to incorporate repetition into a lot of her pieces. When she spoke to us, she spoke about order, and “taming the chaos of nature”. This is something that she kept harking back to throughout her presentation. She spoke several times of humankind’s interest in ordering and arranging the natural world around them. Many of her pieces reflect this in their incorporation of natural images and icons into repetitive, often symmetrical patterns. 

I love her take on perspective. Her manipulation of dimensions is stunning, especially in her “2D” sliced mold vases. In this, and other works, she emphasized the power of one dimension by shaping the pots so that they looked like silhouettes, while still operating within a 3D medium. Many if not most of her pieces were comprised of multiple, sometimes hundreds of other pots, formed and arranged precisely.The beauty of her pieces are not just in the craftsmanship of each individual piece, but and especially in their arrangement and interaction with each other and with the viewer.

Anna Maria Tricarico

Alice Drew

Alice Drew is a Houghton alumni from 2000 who furthered her education at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This formal education alongside her intrinsic inspirations have led her to create a form that fully expresses who she is as an artist. Motivated by the ideology of feminism, Drew’s works allow for her to feel liberated in her art. She includes gardens, ships, and animals, just to name a few, as a means of displaying this concept of freedom in many of her pieces. She has also drawn her inspiration through her extensive travels through Europe and she takes in all of the culture and architecture, so often overlooked and under appreciated for its modern value. She then incorporates all of these inspirations into the creation of a ceramic piece.

When it comes to the actual process by which Drew completes a piece, there are numerous steps. First, she hand-draws the image that she plans to transfer onto her finished clay product. From there she creates screen prints of her drawings and layers them in the fashion that she plans for them to appear on the flat clay. Lastly, she molds the clay to its final form.


Alice Drew

     Alice Drew is a ceramist who graduated from Houghton College. She later attended Rochester Institute of Technology as her choice of graduate school. Unlike most potters that throw their pieces on a potter’s wheel, Alice hand builds her ceramic pieces from slabs of clay. Instead of using original final glazes, she uses under glazes on her pieces then finishes them with a final clear, glossy glaze. These under glazes are screen printed onto her ceramic pieces. Her screen print designs that she uses are intricate hand drawn illustrations or patterns.

     To accumulate these designs, she observes her surroundings and other artists’ work. Early influences of hers were Japanese work and a trip she took to Vienna. She is inspired by the small details she comes across on her travels. Alice pays attention to patterns she sees in home decor and gardens, combined. She has incorporated many birds into her work, because of an unconscious thought of the freedom that they have. She has also studied the Impressionist era that has given her many ideas for her screen printing. It is amazing how much delicate detail she puts into her under glazing. All of her observing and attention to detail; all of that hard work paid off to give her many inspirational ideas to incorporate into her work.

     I remember Alice telling us a story about how she wasn’t getting any offers for articles or shows, like all of the prospering artists whose work was just as good as her own. So she became impatient with why God wasn’t giving her what she wanted most. Then after a short period of time she was offered to do an article, and her work started to pick up. Alice told us to be patient and content with where we are in our lives. And that the patience will pay off, and we will get to where we want to be in life when we are meant to. Our lives may seem to be at a standstill, but all of the hard work, observing, and waiting will pay off when we have reached that time of our life.

                 Becca Sarrge

Alice Drew

Alice Drew is a 2000 graduate of Houghton and attended grad school at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  She also attended the Women’s Studio Workshop in Kingston, New York to further her education and experience in her field.  Her style is very feminine and free; her inspiration comes from a variety of sources as she mentioned things like wall coverings and decorative patterns on fabrics, picture frames, foreign countries, and gardens.  She also tends to include a lot of animals and ships in her work.  

Her process includes a few steps.  She first draws the images or patterns by hand.  Then, she arranges them in different layers by screen printing them on the flat surface of the clay.  From there, she proceeds to form the clay into it’s final form.       


Alice was very transparent with us and shared some of her struggles as an artist in her lecture.  One of these challenges came in the form of jealousy: wanting what other artists in her field had.  She noticed other ceramists around her getting into publications and wondered why she wasn’t getting into these magazines because she felt her work was good enough to be in it if theirs was.  It’s good to know that other artists go through these times of trial, and it’s something to be aware of too, because thoughts like that will not make you better, only thinking badly of others and yourself.  It’s good to look at what other people are doing in your medium, but it can be a path to destruction when you start to compare yourself to other artists, and that’s a major point I took away from Alice and something I think other artists should learn to recognize too.  It’s most important to stay focused on your work and why you are making it.  

Nicole Mason   


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.