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NCECA’s On the Edge Brings Top Ceramic Art to Seattle

Li Chen. Earth Piercing Fire, 2008. Clay, rope, wood structure. 35 7/16 x 33 11/16 x 51 3/16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

This week, Seattle plays host to On the Edge, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA)’s 46th annual conference, celebrating the cutting edge of contemporary ceramic arts.  From Mar. 28 to 31, thousands of ceramic artists, educators and lovers of pottery and sculpture from every corner of the globe are expected to attend panels and demonstrations at the Washington State Convention Center downtown. One of America’s most significant arts organizations, the NCECA is devoted to furthering the ceramic arts around the world, and its massive conference will bring the finest examples of pottery today to Seattle.

In conjunction with the NCECA conference, museums, galleries and art schools throughout Puget Sound are putting on more than 170 ceramic-themed exhibitions. Even SeaTac Airport and Nordstrom are participating, and the Seattle Design Center alone has 30 independent exhibitions, free and open to the public Mar. 26-31.

Here are some other pottery hot spots you shouldn’t miss:

  • At the Washington Convention Center (800 Convention Place, Seattle), the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs are supporting two exhibitions: the Kolva-Sullivan Ceramic Collection, showcasing 50 inventive clay masterpieces from the private collection of Spokane art patrons Jim Kolva and Pat Sullivan; and Marks: Sculptors Drawing, featuring 10 of the Pacific Northwest’s finest ceramic artists, including Charles Krafft, Patti Warashina and Alwyn O’Brien. Seattle Collects Clay, with ceramic pieces from Seattle and King County’s portable works collection, will also be on display. All three shows run through Apr. 9.
  • Bellevue Arts Museum (510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue) has the honor of housing Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational, an inspiring, experimental show featuring 30 international artists’ takes on the themes of play and creativity (A caveat: There’s some mature imagery, so it’s not for kids). Among the artists featured are Washington artist Beth Cavener Stichter, known for her dynamic animal sculptures, and Puerto Rico-raised Cristina Córdova, famed for her evocative magical realist style. Through June 17.
  • Finally, Frye Art Museum (704 Terry Avenue, Seattle) is hosting the first U.S. museum exhibition of renowned Chinese sculptor Li Chen: Eternity and Commoner. The Taiwan- and Shanghai-based artist, known for his monumental Buddhist figures, has developed a distinctive style inspired by Zen principles. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view two installations that Li designed especially for the Frye, as well as fragile large-scale sculptures such as Earth Piercing Fire, a composition of clay, wax, rope and wood that shows Li experimenting with wetting and drying clay to reveal the skeleton—the essence—of his forms. Through Apr. 8.

For more information about the NCECA, visit