“I had my first impression of ceramics when I was a little kid,” Po-Wen Liu reflected. “My uncle used to own a ceramics factory and I would play with clay with my little cousins and make pots.”
Po-Wen Liu has been a ceramics lecturer and ceramics lab manager at UNC-Greensboro for the past five years. He also instructs lessons at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem.
Liu had been interested in art since he was a child. Growing up, he would participate in drawing and painting competitions held by his school. “I was very interested in art in general,” Liu mentioned. “I would always get first prize. That really encouraged me to go and pursue art.”
When it came time for Liu to choose his college major, his love for art came into consideration. He was living in Taiwan, where he grew up, and the only ceramic centered courses offered at the time was ceramics engineering.
Ceramics engineering is not a typical ceramics design major. Instead of working with the clay and making various molds and sculptures, the courses of study focused on the science of clay and ceramic materials. It is the base foundation of creating substance and objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials.
At the time Liu graduated from college, it was required for all males in Taiwan to enlist in the military. As a substitute for military service he applied to become a part of a reserved officer program. After taking a test, he was accepted and served in the Marine Corps for about five years.
When he was done with his time in the military, Liu worked for a Chinese porcelain company in Taipei, Taiwan as a ceramics engineer. For three years he tested, developed and created prototypes and improved glazes and clay bodies for the company.
During this time, Liu encountered many customers that had studied in the United States of America. “We would have conversations and they would encourage me study ceramics as an art, the design part of it in the U.S.,” Liu reflected.
Liu then began researching schools and programs in the United States. After three years he left the company he was with and moved the United States to study ceramics as an art.
For his BFA degree in Ceramics, Liu attended the School for American Craft at Rochester Institute of Technology. His MFA in ceramics was achieved at Northern Illinois University.
Liu has been teaching for over 10 years in different places that range from art centers to universities.
“I really enjoy this location because North Carolina is one of the pottery capitals of the U.S.,” Liu mentioned.
Sawtooth was Liu’s first teaching job once he moved to North Carolina, and he still teaches courses there to this day.
He was drawn to teaching because he loves sharing his knowledge and experience with students.
“Teaching and learning is a mutual relationship,” Liu stated. ‘I sometimes learn from students when I teach.”
“If you haven’t worked with clay before, it can be very hard to grasp,” Liu continued. “But for me, it came very easy. I think because I understood the technical parts of it, it was easier for me to execute what I wanted to accomplish with a slab of clay. I always tell my students that technique is very basic, but very important.”
Even though Liu teaches at both Sawtooth and UNCG, he feels a bigger sense of responsibility when teaching classes at UNCG rather than at the Sawtooth Center.
“Students at UNCG intend to use this or pursue ceramics as a career whereas it is just a hobby for those at the Sawtooth center,” Liu explained. He feels there is more of a liability with students at the university, to teach them and make sure that they have learned what they need to know before graduating.
Liu mused that one of the reasons he liked ceramics was because he is fascinated by the physical quality of clay and the way it can pretty much do anything his hands can mold it to.
“I come to work every day to work on ceramics and in my free time work with clay about 6-7 hours every single day,” Liu revealed, “Ceramics art is a way to use clay as a medium to create our world. My favorite pieces to make are lidded vases.”
Categories: Artist Weekly, Arts & Entertainment
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