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Sheridan Curiosities Blog

Porcelain clay pot

For the second year in a row, Sheridan has brought in an emerging artist to serve as a resource for Ceramics students. Drew Ippoliti has been living in China for three years, and his work has been exhibited in Taiwan, China and Japan. He originally made his way to China through a year long Fulbright Fellowship, and then stayed on after receiving another grant to study Chinese. Drew credits his effort to learn Chinese for his deeper insights into Chinese Ceramics, because he was able to ask people “I see this as this, but what does it mean from your perspective?”

Drew, who began his ceramics studies in his native country, the U.S., views his role at Sheridan as an opportunity to bring his voice to a group of students that may not have heard it before, to share what he has seen and “activate the atmosphere a little bit.” Drew’s original introduction to Sheridan College came when he was in graduate school in the U.S. and he met Sheridan grads. They spoke of our college as a place to “hone your hand skills” and get “that tactile touch.”

A Chinese writer said of ceramics that it is an art form that pertains to the touch of the maker, and is especially close to humanity through the labour of one’s hands, said Drew. It is a rare art in which you make something very temporary (clay) into something very permanent (once fired). Drew’s work has been profoundly affected by his time in China, where he says that the country’s economic development has led to a boom in the art industry. He is now specializing in the traditional Chinese Blue and White Porcelain.

Porcelain is made of a clay with distinctive elements of white colour and durability. The material caolin – from gaolin in Chinese – is very white, and when fired to 1500-2000 degrees celsius, it becomes a lustrous stone. Caolin is only found in China and Japan, and was prized by European colonists who traded with the Orient. In fact, Drew said, porcelain was the original impetus of forgeries, as the demand for porcelain led to knock offs and fakes produced in Europe.

“Paralysis by analysis is common among students. They want to do it all, but mastery isn’t picked up in one semester” – Drew Ippoliti

Drew is trying to take blue and white Chinese porcelain in a different direction. He is redesigning the form, avoiding the relative ease of ceramics made on a potter’s wheel to “break the round” and create hexagonal shapes.

Interestingly, of the full-time faculty teaching in the Crafts and Design – Ceramics program, all have been to China. Drew can’t deny the history of Asian influence on ceramics. Now that he has explored Chinese ceramics, his interest is in what ceramic techniques that are a thousand years old mean in this current era.

Drew is teaching and supporting student work in a way that provides students with experiences that parallel real life, giving them a taste of what they could be doing when they get out in the industry. He has found Sheridan to be a very interactive and dynamic workspace, with active students from diverse backgrounds. He emphasized that there is no invalid perspective in ceramics, but you need to be able to explain where you’re coming from. “Paralysis by analysis is common among students,” Drew commented. “They want to do it all, but mastery isn’t picked up in one semester”.  Drew hopes to help students get “deep into the material, and develop intelligence and processing that is not happening on a conscious level.”


Written by: Anne Whitehead, Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design at Sheridan.

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