National ceramics competition showcases UW-Whitewater alum

November 19, 2012

Kern teapotsHis contemporary teapot with tea bowls earned UW-Whitewater graduate Mike Kern a prized position in the annual undergraduate showcase of the world's largest ceramics magazine.  

Kern's pieces were featured in Ceramics Monthly with eight other selections created by students of some of the highest-ranked ceramics programs in the nation.  

"It is an honor to have some work chosen for the Ceramics Monthly Undergraduate Showcase," he said. "I still have a lot to learn and experience, but having work chosen for that competition definitely boosted my confidence that I am doing some things right."  

Kern's vessels, selected over hundreds of other utilitarian and sculptural pieces created by students, were the product of his undergraduate research project conducted in the spring of 2012. He investigated the use of commercially manufactured glazes on utilitarian ceramics. He concluded that these glazes, which he was able to replicate in UW-Whitewater's extensive glaze lab, can be applied earlier in the firing process, despite clay's tendency to shrink.  

Kern, who graduated in May, gives a lot of credit to his school.

"UW-Whitewater's ceramics program is very strong. Many students go on to grad school, teach, and become artists. I am not the first student to be featured in this magazine, and I won't be the last from UW-Whitewater," he said.  

The faculty's dedication to exposing students to a wide variety of styles sets the UW-Whitewater ceramics program apart from other schools. Jared Janovec, assistant professor of art and faculty adviser for Kern's research, said while other schools focus on either utilitarian or sculptural ceramics, UW-Whitewater teaches both.

Students are encouraged to experiment with a variety of construction and glazing techniques in historical and contemporary styles. Kern's pieces are especially impressive because of their modern design within the traditional framework of a teapot, Janovec said.  

Professor Emeritus Charlie Olson, winner of the 2012 W.P. Roseman Excellence in Teaching Award, is one reason students have access to a wide range of materials, Janovec said. Olson worked to modernize the studio, adding electric kilns and new wheels. The annual UW-Whitewater Ceramics Exhibition, which will mark its 43rd year in January, reflects the tradition of excellence in the program.  


Kern (pictured above at Undergraduate Research Day) is a substitute art teacher at Brodhead Middle School and hopes to support himself in the future as a ceramic studio artist.

Click here to visit the UW-Whitewater Art Department.     


Sara Kuhl

Jeff Angileri