Form + the Process of Transformation
An ancient art that is open to innovation and new technologies, ceramics offers a broad vision for form, content and invention. Faculty encourage risk-taking as you master technique, inventing and blending processes to develop a personal approach to your work. Intellectual curiosity and a passion for process are essential tools for this major.
The curriculum is grounded in conceptual issues and techniques of forming and finishing, such as sculptural building; wheel throwing; mold-making and slip-casting; and various firing methods. You will formulate and mix your own clay bodies and glazes, supported by fully stocked and equipped studio areas.
In addition to the major curriculum, students can work with kiln-formed glass, study computer modeling programs for design and digital prototyping, engage with social practice and participate in a host of elective courses. We emphasize research and presentation, with a concentration on professional practice that prepares emerging artists for a career in the arts.
Professor and Chair
Cary Esser’s sculptures indulge the materiality of ceramics and draw on the history of architectural terra cotta, producing artworks ranging from single tiles to large-scale installations. She has served as chair of the Kansas City Art Institute ceramics department since 1996. During her 30-year career in the arts, Esser has also taught at the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Louisiana State University (LSU). She has been a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, the International Ceramics Studio in Hungary, and other venues. Esser has recently exhibited at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Northern Clay Center. She is featured in the March 2013 issue of Ceramics: Art and Perception and received the 2013 Kansas City Art Institute Distinguished Achievement Award. Esser and her KCAI students and colleagues were presented in Season Two of the PBS “Craft In America” television series, broadcast in 2009. She holds an M.F.A. degree from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and a B.F.A. degree from KCAI.
Paul Donnelly is a studio potter who uses slip cast and wheel-thrown techniques to create decorative yet functional pottery. His work navigates between architecture, nature and popular culture to reveal notions of history and fashion and their place in the domestic landscape. He received his B.F.A. degree from Edinboro University, Pennsylvania, and his M.F.A. from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Before receiving his master’s degree, he managed the ceramics department facilities at the University of Pennsylvania while also participating in the Artist in Residence Program at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Casey Whittier’s work explores the intersections between nature and imagination, desire and destruction and the overriding issue of mortality. Through intimate sculptures and large-scale installations, her work often addresses issues of scale and space in relationship to the human body. Originally from Maine, Whittier received her B.F.A. degree from KCAI and an M.F.A. degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her love for the outdoors and desire to collect and re-imagine relationships between objects was fostered by a family of environmentally literate individuals whose own collections were part of the daily landscape (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so they say). Whittier’s work is included in private collections and has been exhibited throughout the U.S. She is a founding member of Hyperlink Gallery in Chicago.
Christian Baker is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, receiving her degree in ceramics. She specializes in porcelain and china painted sculpture that references the human body. She has extensive knowledge of common kiln forming techniques – fusing, slumping, and casting using plaster silica investment. Baker teaches fundamental and advanced sections of courses in kiln-formed glass.
Studio Technician & Lecturer
Tom Binger earned a B.F.A. degree from the Kansas City Art Institute. In addition to the wide range of skill he employs in maintaining the ceramics facility, he specializes in consulting, problem solving, and fabrication for artists and designers. Binger teaches elective studio courses in the ceramics department, focusing on clay and glaze formulation and kiln theory.
Once you declare your major, ceramics students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete course catalog.
- Sophomore Studio I: Figure and Structure in Clay
- Sophomore Studio II: Innovation in the Multiple
- Materials and Process I & II
- Junior Studio1: Source and Form
- Junior II: Process & Practice
- Professional Practice
- Senior Studio: Thesis
- Senior Studio: Presentation and Exhibition
- Professional Practice
View Samples of Our Work
- Kansas City Art Institute
Like What You See?
For additional examples of student-produced work that displays a wider range of styles, technique and subject matter, browse our expanded photo gallery.
Professional practice seminars are a compulsory part KCAI’s undergraduate program. The seminars introduce students to world-renowned visiting artists and other arts professionals, who present lectures, demonstrations and engage with students in interactive, hands-on critiques and workshops.
Ceramics facility updates
A $750,000 recent renovation to the facility included a high-performing plaster lab, expanded glaze room and the Steve Metzler Mezzanine, which provides space for 3-D printers. Our teaching collection holds more than 600 exceptional ceramics by students, faculty, and others, providing inspiration and highlighting the fantastic history of the program. Read more.