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Clarke Ceramics Crafts Community Connections

By Clarke News  |  February 19, 2024
Assistant Professor of Art, Troy Aiken

Building on the momentum of their Homecoming art sale, Clarke Ceramics is extending their reach across campus and throughout Dubuque. Here are just some of the ways these growing artists are using their talents to shape their community. 

Scoring Big with the Souper Bowl 

Clarke has been a long-time partner for the Souper Bowl event at Convivium Urban Farmstead. For $40, attendees select a handmade bowl from a local artist, enjoy a delicious meal, and keep the bowl when they finish. Proceeds from the event support St. Stephan’s Food Bank and Convivium’s mission to fight food insecurity in Dubuque. 

Ceramics students along with Assistant Professor of Art Troy Aiken partnered with local art collective Twenty Dirty Hands to create the bowls for the fifth annual event, which was held on Sunday, February 4. 

“We produced 50 of the 100 bowls needed and opened our kiln to other artists who contributed to the project,” Troy said. “It was a fantastic experience to not only have students create this work, but to meet and collaborate with other local artists. I think it opened peoples’ eyes to what is possible in our community.” 

Black History Month Collaborations

Josiah Nichols ’24 prepares to paint one of the vessels for the Student Life pottery exhibit.

Ceramics students are also using their art to advance discussions on culture and identity on campus as well. Troy and advanced ceramics student Madeline Meseke ’24 created 11 clay vessels. Then, students and staff from different areas of Student Life, such as Residence Life, Campus Ministry, and Engagement and Intercultural Programs carved, painted, or otherwise customized the vessels to represent their work on campus. The vessels were unveiled in a ceremony in the Clarke Atrium on February 9. 

“This project really celebrated that while we are all made from the same clay, our differences make us beautiful,” said Will Hudson, Director of Engagement and Intercultural programs. “Being able to partner with Troy and his students on this project was a great way to get everyone involved in Black History Month and discussions on how we are stronger, together.” 

Clarke Ceramics also worked with Clarke’s Black Student Union to create commemorative dishes for the group’s annual banquet on February 25. Using a technique called decal inlay in the kiln, students imprinted images of iconic Black leaders from a variety of fields on pre-purchased plates. The dishes were then used to serve a soul food inspired meal catered by Frannie’s Barbeque in Dubuque.  

Learn more about Black History Month Celebrations at Clarke. 

Ceramics Club Welcomes All 

Students created custom ceramics for the Campus Ministry offices.

In turn, Clarke Ceramics is fostering a space where students can develop their self-expression and own artistic abilities. Following a successful “Pottery Palooza” paint night in the fall, Troy’s spring classes filled within minutes of registration opening. To create more space in the studio for participation, students formed the Clarke Ceramics Club. With the club, majors and non-majors alike can have greater access to the studio, including having a buddy system that allows them to use the space later into the evening. 

While some use the club time to create personal pieces, others are crafting items they can sell at the Clarke Fest Art Sale on April 20.  

“This is a great opportunity for students to get experience in the entrepreneurial side of producing art. They must think about, ‘how will I price my piece? Will it sell?’” Troy said. “Additionally, we’ve had some staff and friends sell pieces through the club and donate the proceeds back to the students. We can then use the funds to bring in artists for demonstrations or take students on field trips. It’s been very rewarding to watch it progress, and to see the students really lead that growth.” 

Want to learn more about how you can collaborate with Clarke Ceramics? Contact Troy at