Coe senior Mitch Iburg displaying ceramic work on a national stage

Extra: Katie Ricklefs, Coe College Marketing and Public Relations Intern

2011-04-15 15:10:06 - General

Mitch Iburg unloads his ceramic artwork from a wood-fire kiln he helped to design at Coe College.

Coe College senior Mitch Iburg has received national recognition for his ceramic artwork that is usually reserved for more experienced artists. Iburg’s creations have been shown at several competitive national art exhibitions, and he has been accepted into a prestigious Artist-in-Residence program following graduation.

The North Liberty native and 2007 graduate of Iowa City West High School expected to study painting upon leaving high school and entering Coe. But it was during second semester of his freshman year that these plans changed. Plans changed because Iburg discovered clay.

“I had absolutely no intention of having anything to do with clay,” Iburg said when reflecting on his life at Coe. “It wasn’t until I had accidentally encountered it in 3D fundamentals, and from then on I was hooked.” It was in this course, taught by Robert O. Daniel Professor of Art John Beckelman, that Iburg discovered his love of creating ceramic pieces.

Although clay is a natural resource, the artist is able to control the material in a number of ways. Clay can be a combination of materials blended together to create unique characteristics. In addition, the way the each piece is fired can be manipulated as well, depending on the temperature or type of kiln used. Put these variables together and there are countless possibilities when creating ceramic artwork, especially for a creative mind such as Iburg’s.

“I was a draw-er when I was a kid,” Iburg said with a laugh. “I would draw all over our house.” His parents, Sally Henderson and Lester Iburg, even supplied the young artist with drywall from the garage, which happened to be the perfect canvas for murals. “I had very creative parents, and they have always encouraged that artistic output,” Iburg commented.

During the past fall semester, Iburg took part in a special Directed Studies in Art course, taught by Beckelman. The Directed Studies course allows the student and the instructor to collaborate, tailoring the curriculum to fit the student’s particular needs and interests.

Wasting no time, Iburg helped design a special wood-fire kiln, the first of its kind at Coe. He explained that the new kiln creates a much more natural and raw finish. “It was an extremely collaborative project,” Iburg notes. Being a student and having the freedom, and the support, to see a project from start to finish was a satisfying experience for Iburg. The kiln has been fired three times since being built.

The most rewarding aspect of creating ceramic work has proven to be the process itself. “It’s very process oriented,” Iburg explained. “Working with sensitivity to the actual characteristics of the clay and the firing methods, letting those dictate how the final piece looks, giving up control and letting those processes take over, it can be very unpredictable.”

Iburg’s creative instincts and hard work have recently paid off, as he’s been accepted into several competitive national art exhibitions. The Third Annual National Juried Cup Exhibition is currently being held at the Lux Center for Arts in Lincoln, Neb., and will run until April 30. The show holds a variety of functional and non-functional ceramic cups from around the U.S.

The Fourth Annual College Clay Collective is being held at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education in Rochester N.Y. until April 28. College students from across the country submitted images for the show so that juror Kathy King, an instructor at the office for the Arts Ceramics Program at Harvard College, could select the accepted entries.

Local exhibits where Iburg’s work has been shown include the Area College Student Exhibition, held at Kirkwood Community College in March 2010, and the Area College Student Exhibition, held at Mount Mercy University during the spring of 2010.

In addition, Iburg’s senior art exhibit will open Friday, April 15 from 5-7 p.m., at the Sinclair Galleries at Coe. The show runs from April 15- 22 during normal gallery hours from 3-6 p.m. daily.

Following graduation in May, Iburg will be taking part in a prestigious Artist-in-Residence program at the Cub Creek Foundation, located in Appomattox, Va.“I think it’s going to be really good, to be able to clear the mind and focus on what I really want to,” Iburg added. The Cub Creek Foundation, “Promotes advancement of ceramic arts, and encourages and supports the artistic, aesthetic, and technical development of craftspeople and artists who work with clay,” as stated on the foundation’s website.

In the future, Iburg plans to earn a master’s degree and later teach young artists at the college level. “One of the things I really value about clay is that it’s an excellent teaching tool, and I’d really like to carry on those traditions to younger artists,” Iburg notes.