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Ceramicist Will Preman’s Artistic Residency at Dickinson College Informs, Inspires

Artist Will Preman served an artistic residency at Dickinson that included open studio hours, an exhibition, class visits and student-portfolio critiques. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Artist Will Preman served an artistic residency at Dickinson that included open studio hours, an exhibition, class visits and student-portfolio critiques. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Students lend a hand in studio, gain useful insights

At the start of his artistic residency at Dickinson, Philadelphia artist Will Preman announced that one of the works he’d create in Dickinson’s ceramics studio would be fashioned with hundreds of delicate clay flowers. He enjoyed the repetition—he found it meditative—and he invited any students who wanted to try their hand and join him to get in touch.

“I was immediately intrigued, because I'd never had the opportunity to work with an artist hands-on,” said Nate Chaves ’23, who’d learned to work with clay as a high-schooler and was eager to expand on those skills. A few email exchanges later, Chaves was working side by side with Preman on several fantastical works that move beyond traditional ceramics subjects and forms. And by midsemester, with feedback from Preman, Chaves had fine-tuned his own fantastical work.

Educated at Kansas City Art Institute (BFA, ceramic art and art history) and the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University (MFA), Preman has created ceramics for BDDW, an international design and fabrication company, and is the owner/designer of Philadelphia’s Yum Yum Ceramics. He’s served residencies at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Urban Culture Project in Kansas City and the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state. He describes his interdisciplinary works as explorations of biographical events and philosophical ideas that blur the "boundaries between funny and serious, heartfelt and shallow, extraordinary and mundane” and create a “whirlwind of images.” Much of his recent work is infused with a sense of humor and play and comments on how the accumulation of moments as well as objects shapes our lives.

Preman comes to Dickinson through the Sylvia J. Smith Visiting Artists Fund, and he is one of several working professionals to serve arts residencies at the college this year. In addition to working in the studio and creating new works for exhibition at Dickinson, art & art history residents at Dickinson deliver a public career talk, visit students in class and provide expert feedback to senior studio art majors. They also hold open studio hours so interested students can see them at work and pick up new skills and techniques.

While students have daily access to accomplished professional artists—their professors—the additional perspectives of outside artists, who may have different areas of focus or deploy different techniques, can be invaluable. It also may be easier for some students to relate to a young, emerging artist like Preman, who’s only a handful of years ahead. For students like Chaves, the chance to reignite a passion while working with a pro in the field was inspiring.

“It was nice to be able to work with an artist, hear his stories and learn how I can better my own methods. He taught me some methods that I may not have learned otherwise,” says Chaves, who learned new techniques for making bowls and for hollowing out the sculpture he created for his First-year Seminar with Assistant Professor of Art & Art History Rachel Eng, while also discovering new ways to approach the medium. “It was fun being a part of the final project, and it was satisfying to go to the exhibit opening and looking at the pieces I helped work on.”


Published November 8, 2019