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Shaping Their Future With Clay: Clark Alumni Showcase Ceramic Art


Yelena Roslaya’s cereamics are on display at “The Next Step” exhibition. The pieces, inspired by sound waves, were made from earthenware slip-cast to playfully resemble musical instruments. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

Behind a thin, glass exhibit case, two faces stare eerily into the silent lobby.


Swirls and twists of painted ceramic bowls and cups line the walls of the Frost Arts Center lobby as Clark alumni feature their pieces in a special exhibition, “The Next Step.”

The exhibit, which opened on Feb. 21, features the different ceramic styles of 10 artists. “The Next Step” was created to inspire current art students and showcase alumni abilities and personal expression. Students will prepare for the 51st annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts at the time of the exhibition. The NCECA convention kicks off March 22, boasting the largest gathering of ceramic artists in the country.

“It’s a big event,” Clark art professor Lisa Conway said. Clark’s “The Next Step” and “Politics of the Figure: Ideologies of Failure” exhibitions will be seen by NCECA attendants traveling by bus from Portland.

“I wanted to encourage our current students,” Conway said. “For a while I’ve been trying to think of more ways [of] how can I encourage students in that transition in moving away from Clark.”

Encouragement and exhibitions also help students and alumni, like Trish Bottemiller and Yelena Roslaya, find an outlet to show their talent and their unique style with students and the community.

Bottemiller, who now attends the Oregon College of Art and Craft, has several pieces in the exhibition. She describes her style as a “fantasy element of sculpture.”

From left to right the two pieces “One tone” and “Two tone” were created by Yelena Roslaya. The vase like ceramics are a part of an ongoing theme of music and sound waves exhibited in the Frost art center till March 25. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

“My main piece is definitely the sculpture of the lady with the two faces,” Bottemiller said. “[This] was a response to some ancient Mesoamerican art that I was trying to modernize and bring a new breath of life [to].”

Roslaya has 10 pieces in the exhibit. She said she expresses her artistic talent around sound, musical instruments and her thesis about hearing-motion synesthesia — a condition where visual flashes turn into sound.

On a plaque in the Frost Art Center, Roslaya expresses her thoughts after graduating Clark.

“My immediate feelings after leaving Clark College were nervous and excited at the same time,” Roslaya said. “I was nervous not knowing what was ahead of me or what was going to unfold in terms of my artistic career.”

After graduating from Clark, alumni often find that the costs for supplies and facilities can make creating art challenging. The main obstacle ceramic artists face

Marbled vases, created by Trish Bottemiller, sit on display for “The Next Step” exhibition at at the Frost Art Center until March 25. Bottemiller’s vases were made using slip-cast molding. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

is buying a kiln, a special oven used to harden and dry clay. Many students like Roslaya have discovered other ways to solve this issue.

“I don’t really have my own studio; I share a studio with a potter not too far from where I live in  Battleground,” Roslaya said. “I work for her. In exchange, she shares a studio and gives me a working space and tools.”

Both Bottemiller and Roslaya have continued to plan for their art careers. “I’m basically turning stone potter for the next year and a half [and] applying to as many artistic opportunities as I can,” Roslaya said.

Bottemiller, on the other hand, is working on developing a new line of sculptures to broaden her idea of a “mythics [type] of story.”

“I want to create a narrative with sculpture,” Bottemiller said.

Roslaya believes young artists should take any possible opportunities that come their way. “Get involved in art or artistic communities or if there’s [an] art club or something else that goes on in the community,” she said.

Bottemiller advises young artists to show off their art, and to ask viewers questions about the piece.

“The more voices you get telling you about what people see in your art, [the more it] will help you see things you won’t see yourself.”

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