Three Husker ceramic artists selected as Ceramics Monthly 2020 Emerging Artists

Left: Taylor Sijan’s Teapot, cone 6 oxidation porcelain with underglaze, 8" x 8" x 5.5", 2020; Right:  Andy Bissonnette’s Gourd Vase, stoneware and terra sigillata, carved, burnished, fired to cone 06 and reduced in sawdust, 11”w x 18”h, 2019.
Left: Taylor Sijan’s Teapot, cone 6 oxidation porcelain with underglaze, 8" x 8" x 5.5", 2020; Right: Andy Bissonnette’s Gourd Vase, stoneware and terra sigillata, carved, burnished, fired to cone 06 and reduced in sawdust, 11”w x 18”h, 2019.

Taylor Sijan, a second-year Master of Fine Arts student in ceramics, alumna Iren Tete (M.F.A. 2018) and incoming Master of Fine Arts student Andy Bissonnette are among 20 ceramic artists nationally chosen as 2020 Emerging Artists by Ceramics Monthly magazine.

There were more than 300 submissions to the annual Emerging Artist competition.

“I was pretty shocked, to be honest,” Bissonnette said of the honor. “The application is open to any ceramic artist, both U.S. and international, who have been actively pursuing a career in ceramics for less than 10 years, so to be selected this year is a huge honor.”

Sijan said it felt like her work was being validated.

“I was really excited because I have been reading Ceramics Monthly since I was in undergrad,” she said. “Being published by them is an excellent opportunity for exposure within the field of ceramics. I am particularly grateful now to have been chosen as one of the 2020 emerging artists because so many of my other opportunities were canceled this spring and summer due to the pandemic, and this feels like my hard work is being validated.”

In announcing the recipients, the editors in the May 2020 issue of Ceramics Monthly wrote: “The 20 artists chosen as this year’s finalists skillfully use a variety of techniques to convey a range of conceptual explorations.”

The School of Art, Art History & Design’s graduate ceramics program was tied for #9 in the most recent US News & World Report rankings for Best Ceramics Programs.

Sijan graduated Summa Kum Laude with her B.F.A. in ceramics and metalsmithing at Bowling Green State University in 2016. After which, she spent two years in Wichita, Kansas, as a post-baccalaureate student at Wichita State University, studying wood and soda-fired pottery. During her time in Wichita, she was Secretary of the WSU Ceramics Guild while also working private and public events at the Ulrich Museum of Art.

Sijan was active in the community as the Student Volunteer Coordinator for Empty Bowls Wichita, a large, nonprofit fundraiser to benefit those in need through the Kansas Food Bank. She has been recognized in juried exhibitions nationally and has received several notable awards, including the Athena Society Regional Artist Grant, the National 2016 NICHE Award for Student Ceramic Sculpture, and the Arts and Design Advocates Grant from Wichita State.

Despite her current emphasis on functional, decorated pottery, she also enjoys small-scale metalsmithing, bookbinding, and drawing as other creative outlets.

“My current work is richly decorated functional pottery that focuses on the role of beauty and complexity in creating a compelling object,” Sijan said. “Since coming to UNL, my work has become more complex in its construction of forms and more painterly in terms surface. I have been focusing on enhanging the experience of interacting with my pots, from the visual impact each piece has at a distance to draw the viewer in, to the tactile experience of the pots being held and used.”

She loves being a graduate student in the ceramics program at Nebraska.

“It is a challenging and nurturing program,” she said. “We have beautiful studios to work in, great facilities, and a thriving ceramics community here through the Clay Club. Pete, Eddie, and Margaret are excellent mentors who each have unique views and advice aimed at making each of us produce our best work possible. My favorite part of the UNL Ceramics program are our special topics courses, Kiln Design and Construction, Glaze Formulation, and Making History which are unique to UNL and have taught me so many valuable skills for being a professional ceramicist.”

Tete graduated from Nebraska in 2019. Last year, she had two of her works accepted into the 2019 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Juried Student Exhibition.

Originally from Bulgaria, Tete completed her undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

She is currently visiting faculty at Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary, Canada.

Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, as well as published by Friend of the Artist and Create! Magazine. Tete has received multiple grants that have supported her practice and research. During the summer of 2018 she was able to further her study of Brutalist theory and architecture through a residency at the Zentrum fur Keramik in Berlin, Germany. She has also completed residencies at the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio) and the Northern Clay Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

Bissonnette holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. He began making pottery at the age of 17 and has melded his two passions into a style that emphasizes form, texture and pattern. He is currently a gallery artist at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis and teaches beginning pottery at Fired Up Studios when he’s not experimenting with new ideas at his home studio.

“I try not to let awards define my success as a maker, but it does feel good to know that people appreciate the work that I’m creating,” he said. “Many of the past recipients of his award have gone on to have extremely successful careers, so I feel encouraged that if I continue to work hard and further my understanding of the medium, I’ll be able to achieve similar success.”

He is looking forward to studying with the faculty at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln starting next fall.

“I’ve been a fan of Margaret, Pete and Eddie’s work for quite some time, and to have the opportunity to learn directly from them was the number one reason I wanted to attend UNL,” Bissonnette said. “There are also countless past graduate students that have blossomed under their guidance and are proof that this is one of the top programs in the country.”

In his own work, Bissonnette is interested in form and surface and how the two complement each other.

“Using pattern, symmetry and repetition, I highlight certain aspects of the pot to draw viewers into and around the piece,” he said. “I want my pots to be able to bring a moment of solace or contemplation into people’s lives—whether that be turning on one of my lamps as you sit down to read a book, or simply pausing to look at a piece as you pass by after a stressful day. I want this work to instill a sense of comfort and beauty that is often overlooked in our chaotic lives.”