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Q&A with Award Winner Nada Abizaid

Nada Abizaid's untitled ceramic artwork won the Dennis Davis Award for Pottery. (click for full size image)
Nada Abizaid’s untitled ceramic artwork won the Dennis Davis Award for Pottery. (click for full size image)

This year’s Student/Faculty Show (open through Sunday) includes a strong showing from The Art League’s ceramics department: mugs, cups, plates, jars, jugs, and even a bird house. The Student Show’s judge chose one piece to recognize with the Dennis Davis Award for Pottery: the untitled piece above by Nada Abizaid, a student in Blair Meerfeld’s ceramics class. We asked the artist, a graphic designer during the day, about taking classes and creating this piece.

Why did you choose this piece to submit for the student show?
Nada Abizaid: I have been working on sculptural container forms for the past year. I felt that in this piece the organic quality blends in with the sculptural form in an interesting way. Also, it stands well on its own as opposed to needing to be part of an installation. The requirement for this show was to submit one piece, and this was the right one for me.

What techniques, lessons, principles, etc. from your ceramics class can we see in this piece?
This is a hand built piece, using a slab of clay for the base and the coiling technique for the rest of the body. The coils are blended together and smoothed. Concepts learned in the class such as the right timing for each step in the building process, the texturing of the piece, drying it adequately, the application of slip and glazing are all important components of the process.

For people unfamiliar with ceramics, what was the process to create this, from start to finish? How did you achieve the finished glaze?
Using the clay provided in class a slab of clay was rolled. An oval was cut out of the clay slab and used as the base. Coils of identical thickness were then hand rolled and superimposed to form the walls, bearing in mind the final shape of the piece. The inner and outer surfaces of the coils were gradually blended and smoothed. The outer surface was then shaped using several tools. Once the piece reached a leather hard dryness, thick black slip (liquid clay) was applied to the surface. The piece was bisque fired (first firing). It was then glazed, and part of the glaze applied to the piece was scraped off leaving it partially glazed. It then went through a second and final firing.

Other examples of Nada Abizaid's work.
Other examples of Nada Abizaid’s work. Photo by the artist.

What was your goal with this piece?
My goal was to create a piece that had organic qualities but yet uses scale and exaggerated proportions as its conceptual tools. The sculptural container I created has elements that allude to nature particularly in the way it is textured and finished, but its concept is deliberately planned.

Why ceramics? Have you worked in other media as well?
I am a graphic designer by training. As a graphic designer you mostly design for a client that has specific needs and goals, and you have to keep in mind the parameters that would make your design project successful during the design process, which can sometimes limit your creativity. Also, you often rely on external sources such as a printing company for the completion of your project. Whereas in ceramics, unless it is a commissioned piece, you have the luxury of creating art for art’s sake with endless possibilities. This often allows you to modify your piece as you shape it and finish it. You create a piece from beginning to end with your own hands; it is extremely fulfilling.

What are you working on now? Are you taking any classes or planning on taking more?
I am working on pieces that have a similar feel to the one in this show. I have been taking Blair Meerfeld‘s ceramics class for several years now and plan on continuing to do so. Blair has been a tremendous inspiration and a great teacher. He has encouraged me to push every concept I was interested in exploring further until I ended up with a piece that fully expressed the concept. This is how we both felt about this piece.

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Did you know: The Art League's Art Camp is the longest running visual arts camp in the area! We've been here for more than 30 years! While sadly we can't find any photos from the '80s (please let us know if you have any lying around), let's take a look back at the last several years of burgeoning kid artists and eight years of fun at Art Camp!

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