Claytopia 2019: Local ceramic artists prepare as NCECA arrives in the Twin Cities by Altered Esthetics

NCECA (The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) is hosting it’s 53rd annual conference in Minneapolis from March 27 - 30. Check out these tips from local ceramic artists on where to find their work and other great exhibitions during Claytopia 2019.

Katayoun Amjadi

Web: Instagram: @katceramics
Online store:


Katayoun Amjadi is currently a Teaching Assistant and MFA candidate at the U of M. Previously, she was an Assistant to the Gallery Director at the Circa Gallery and Curatorial Intern for the Department of Contemporary Art in Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her work has been exhibited in several group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally, including Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Rochester Art Center, Instinct Art Gallery, Weisman Art Museum, Soap Factory, Beijing Film Academy and 7Samar Gallery in Tehran. Amjadi received her BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Minnesota in 2013. She is also a 2015 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She was born in Tehran, Iran and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota and maintains a studio in the Q.arma building in the NE Art District.

Is there anywhere we can see your work on display during NCECA?

My works are up at the Hair&Nails Gallery, Quarter Gallery at the University of Minnesota, and some decorative works are at Gallery 360.

Any additional exhibitions you’d like people to know about?

I also organized a show at the Q.arma Building with mostly ceramics installation artists.

Jason Kittle



Jason Kittel is an artist who lives and works in Northeast Minneapolis.  His primary focus is on the current social situation and one's experience within. These questions and ideas are addressed through sculpture and performance. Jason Kittel is also a co-founder of Truckstop Gallery located on Niccolet Island near downtown Minneapolis. 

What are you looking forward to seeing during Claytopia this year?

Randy Johnston and Variations of Shino at Gallery 1639

Anything you’d like to promote?

Truckstop is hosting two Canadian artists; Magdolene Dykstra and Janet Macpherson.  This collaborative installation explores an environment pushed too far; hybrid animals scattered within an uncompromising landscape.  The unfired installation is sure to stand out among the gallery shows and this year’s NCECA.  More details and information can be found at

Ernest Miller

Web:   Instagram: @ernestmillerceramcis
Facebook: ernestmillerceramicsdesign

Ernest Miller is a ceramic artist working in Minneapolis, MN. He can be found at local art centers sharing ceramic techniques and experience through teaching classes at Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, MN and the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Wayzata, MN. His ceramics career has been mostly built through showing work in various regional and national art fairs including the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis and the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC. You can find a selection of his work at The Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, MN and Schaller Gallery in Saint Joseph, MI. Miller credits a formal education as foundation for a successful outlook on ceramics and the arts. He received an associates degree from Olney Central College in Olney, IL and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL.

Where can we find your work during NCECA?

For NCECA my work can be found at "Pot Spot" and the Northern Clay Center pop up gallery at the convention center.

Are there any exhibitions you’d suggest to people visit while in town for the conference?

There's a few exhibits in particular I recommend seeing. An exhibition of Don Reitze, Chris Gusting, Warren Makenzie, and John Reeve at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts is amazing.

Liz Pechacek 

Web:   Instagram: @lizpechacek


Liz Pechacek is a Minneapolis based ceramics artist whose work is primarily concerned with the making of beautiful objects.

Where can we find your work during NCECA?

The Northern Clay Center sales gallery- 2424 East Franklin Ave
The Northern Clay Center Expo Hall Booth- Minneapolis Convention Center
The Pot Spot, St. Croix Potters Exhibition-  Silverhouse Studio 2519 27th Ave. S
Nucleus- Gallery 360, 3011 W 50th St
To the Top!- Northfield Arts Guild-  304 Division St. S, Northfield, MN

I am also sitting on a panel about ceramics business at the convention Center Thursday at 3:45 and giving a gallery talk at the Northern Clay Center expo hall booth Wednesday at 3.

What are you looking forward to seeing during Claytopia this year?

I am really looking forward to the show at Veronica Wantz and the Russian Art Museum.

Altered Esthetics News:

Our sixth annual Film Festival is open for submissions! Learn more and submit your entry on our Film Freeway page. We are also seeking donations to support this event. 100% of your tax-deductible gift to Ae goes directly to the festival’s operating costs and paying participating artists.

All images courtesy of the artists.

Interviews written by Donny Gettinger, edited by Sarah Kass.

Hawona Sullivan Janzen by Altered Esthetics

Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a somewhat optimistic daisy in the rose garden of life who just happens to believe that art is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.  On most weekdays she can be found at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis where she is the gallery curator and co-founder of the Witness Creative Writing Group, a free monthly creative writing program. When she is not banging out poems on her cursive font typewriter in front of live audiences, you may find her singing improvisational jazz with the Sonoglyph Music & Poetry Collective, creating shadow puppet shows at Monkeybear Harmolodic, or composing music in her St. Paul studio. She is currently developing a jazz opera and installation piece titled Clean, which debuted at the Soap Factory in June of 2016, into a full-length performance piece.

Clean , Soap Factory, 2016

Clean, Soap Factory, 2016

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?

I’m multi-genre: a poet, composer, singer, performer, and socially-engaged installation artist.
Currently I’m at work on three projects:

1. Rondo Family Reunion - a poetry & photography project that brings stories of the Rondo Community to life with performance, lawn sign, and book components.

2. Blue: Our Lives Are On This Line - an encounter poetry project based on people I meet along the Blue Line Expansion route through North Minneapolis.

3. Clean - a jazz opera project that started during a residency at the Soap Factory.

How did you decide to become an artist?

I’m not sure that I ever did. I come from a deep tradition of storytelling, sewing, and farming so I suppose creating was always a part of who I am. In college at the University of Minnesota, I took art classes and discovered a real passion for Performance-based Art which is really just storytelling by a different name. It has taken me 20 years to declare myself an artist.

Clean , Soap Factory, 2016

Clean, Soap Factory, 2016

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Do something! I knew an artist who was angry about a problem she saw in her community. I encouraged her to use her art to start conversations in her community.  

Is there any medium you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet?

Large scale text installations, I dream elaborate works but haven’t quite figured out where I can find space to bring them to life.

Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work? How do you market yourself?

I don’t, really.  I fund my writing work through grants. My performance, composing, and singing work is funded by cover charges and/or venue fees.

Poetry of Resistance & Change , 2017

Poetry of Resistance & Change, 2017

Who are some of the Twin Cities artists you enjoy?

There are so many...

Free Black Dirt:
Venus DeMars:
Michael Kleber-Diggs:
Zoe Bird and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project:
Saymoukda Vongsay:

If I were to follow you around to see art in the Twin Cities, which places would we go? What would we see?

The Minnesota Museum of American Art (The M)
The Loft
The Black Dog

I love modern art, spoken word, jazz.  You name it I’ve got a passion for it.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Expect to see me doing more public art in 2019-20. Summer 2019, I’ll be doing a lawn sign public art installation of poems and photos with photographer, Chris Scott, and poet, Clarence White.

Image of the artist and Frida

Image of the artist and Frida

Follow Hawona on her Facebook page, Hawona Writes, and on Twitter at @Hawona.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Molly Parker Stuart, edited by Sarah Kass.

Sophie Durbin by Altered Esthetics

Sophie Durbin is an multidisciplinary artist. In this interview, learn about Sophie’s installation work, thoughts on self-promotion, and upcoming events at her South Minneapolis art space: Pancake House.

Corrty Pye Municipal Office #4 , Modus Locus, Minneapolis, 2017

Corrty Pye Municipal Office #4, Modus Locus, Minneapolis, 2017

Tell me about your body of work. What are you currently working on?

In the past few years, I have focused on installation. This kicked off with a tiny paper silhouette version of the Witches’ Hat Water Tower at the Smallest Museum in St. Paul in 2015. I also created a food and beverage licensing office set in 1972 in the fictional town of Corrty Pye, Michigan. That was the most complex work I’ve done to date because every component was interactive. I returned to Corrty Pye for a performance/talk at the Mid-America College Art Association conference in Lincoln, Nebraska this fall. I like to be imaginative on the most banal, minute levels like creating fake government paperwork or conducting fake science about tidal energy. There have also been two small installations in New York - I really like showing work in other places and have been hoping to do more of it, but it’s so much easier to collaborate with people that are right down the road from you. I have another installation coming up over that will be a bit of a Stations of the Cross but with haptic poetry (coincidentally it will fall on Easter weekend). Otherwise, I’ve done some written work and contributed to POND presented by Tagvverk.

While I am still dedicated to my personal artistic practice, I find myself shifting toward a DIY curatorial path now. I’m currently working out of Pancake House, a multipurpose art space located in South Minneapolis. In 2018, we experimented with events like a science fair and video game lecture night. We’re about to present our first cohesive season called the Early Spring Haptics Lab. Haptics is any interaction involving touch and it’s been a fascination of mine forever - I wanted to be a massage therapist for awhile and still consider massage/ bodywork a minor hobby. I’m interested in touch and the nervous system. My goal for Pancake House is to, over time, produce thematic series of events that situate art in different fields of scientific inquiry.

Witches’ Hat Water Tower Installation,  The Smallest Museum in St. Paul, 2015

Witches’ Hat Water Tower Installation, The Smallest Museum in St. Paul, 2015

How did you decide to become an artist?

I have been creative in one way or another my entire life and I have never committed to one medium, though I’ve been more attracted to installation in recent years because it’s a way to activate the same part of my brain that allowed me to play house or make believe as a kid. I am often overcome with inspiration and have nowhere else to go except to create something.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist? What is most challenging?

The best part is coming up with ideas. I am a daydreamer. If I could coast along with my unfinished idea list, call it art, and forget about the execution, that would be the life. I do enjoy the more obsessive and detail-oriented aspects of creating work, and I also thrive on the research phase if I’m delving deep into something I’m unfamiliar with.

Marketing and self-promotion are painful for me. I often wish art, even something like a performance or a participatory installation, wasn’t measured by how many human individuals were there to see it. It’s a tree falling in the woods phenomenon. How many people have shied away from creating art because they knew they’d have to somehow find a venue for it and attract people to an opening? I have so much respect for individuals who are good at marketing and self-promotion because it is a thankless task. We have so many tools that are supposed to make it easier. These tools worked for a bit (think of Facebook events, Instagram posts, etc) and now just get swallowed in the algorithmic sea. I think it’s always been difficult to get people to care about art, but nowadays we have clearer (and more depressing) metrics for it, so when you experience a “failure” - though I prefer not to think of an under-attended exhibition or event as a failure if it was well-thought out - it is more visible.

Hard Science/Soft Opening,  Pancake House, Minneapolis, 2018

Hard Science/Soft Opening, Pancake House, Minneapolis, 2018

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? Any examples of bad advice and how you moved past it?

I had a grade school art teacher who told us to “always do art in odd numbers” and I follow that rule very strictly. I also had a dance instructor who had a list of rules on her studio door that strongly discouraged the use of symmetry, which I think is roughly the same concept. I doubt either teacher meant for me to take this advice so literally, but I do think creating things asymmetrically has made my work more compelling.

Bad advice: I’ve been lucky not to spend much time following advice I sense to be bad, but I resent when anyone gives me advice based on vague concepts like “following my inner self” or “following my heart.” If someone is going to take the time to give me advice, I need specificity.

How do you hope audiences experience your work?

I hope people find it interesting and that it makes them want to linger.

Is there any direction or medium you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet?

I don’t think I have the work ethic for it, but I have a deep love for cinema and still fantasize about making movies sometimes.

Letters to Catherines , Babycastles, New York, 2017

Letters to Catherines, Babycastles, New York, 2017

Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work? How do you market yourself?

I tend to use my own possessions as materials and I’m a hoarder, so that pretty much rules out sales. However, I do struggle in a way many artists can relate to in that I am constantly funding projects out of my own pocket. This limits me constantly. I always have my eyes open for outside funding opportunities. The applicant pool for grants and other funding is so much deeper than the amount of money there is to go around. It’s sad. As for marketing, I mentioned above that I hate it - but it’s a necessary evil. I make it easier on myself by hand-drawing flyers, which I find less taxing than using a screen. I use social media. I promote events on MN Artists, which I check all the time and think is a good local resource. I also believe word of mouth is the best marketing tool and am always trying to make connections with people who would be interested in what I’m up to.

Who are some other Twin Cities artists you enjoy?

Nailah Taman ( Her work scratches deep, visceral itches.

Mickey Doe (@mamaleh_lemonrind on Instagram is the best place to find her wares) makes jewelry that is often abstract but always precise and purposeful.

Miriam Karraker ( is an excellent example of a successfully multidisciplinary artist. And she is my studio mate!

Cori Lin ( Cori and I moved here over the same summer nearly 5 years ago and within that time-span her work has become essential to the Minneapolis art landscape.

Letters 2 Lara Croft & Animal Crossing,  Pancake House, Minneapolis, 2018

Letters 2 Lara Croft & Animal Crossing, Pancake House, Minneapolis, 2018

Do you have any exhibits/ events to promote in the near future?

Early Spring Haptics Lab will be presented this Spring at Pancake House. Here are the event dates:

  • Touch Screens: A very tactile video night

    Saturday, February 23, 7 - 10 pm

  • Hands-On: A Collective Haptic Perspective

    Friday, March 22, 7 - 10 pm

    Saturday/ Sunday, March 23 - 24, 1 - 5 pm

  • The Quisp and the Body: A multi-station installation

    Saturday/Sunday, April 20 - 21, 1 - 5 pm

Image of the artist

Image of the artist

For more of Sophie’s work, check out

Follow Sophie on Instagram at @auntie_pancake and Pancake House at @pancakehousempls.

Pancake House is located at 4553 S. 34th Ave in Minneapolis. Follow on Facebook for event information at

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.