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Dear Teachers, What Do You Look For In An Mfa Applicant?


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#1 spring

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 11:45 PM

I'm graduating from college in May with a double major in ceramics and archeology. My plan is to take 7 months off to spend creating more work and strengthening my portfolio to apply to grad schools in january 2012.

I started ceramics at age 14, doing handbuilding but mostly throwing. For the last two years I have concentrated more on creating sculptural work, either figurative or mixed media. As an anthropologist in training and an artist, my work tends to be socially and politically motivated. I've had more time to develope skills, personal style, and visual vocabulary that is unified in concept with my thrown work then with the sculptural work. So, I'm conflicted on which to focus on. I love throwing and I feel like that may be playing it safe but I'm not sure if teachers are interested in thrown work for MFA applicants. In terms of the artist I am now, my sculptural work is most recent and relevent.

So my questions are:

1. Potter or Sculptor? If the work is good, in the end does it really matter? Are they used as a criteria for selection? Which gives me the best chance to get me in?

2. What makes a great portfolio? Are there examples on the web to view?

3. What qualities are sought out when reviewing MFA applications/portfolios?

4. What can I do to set myself apart from other applicants?

5. What are common mistakes you see made?

Getting into a great grad program is everything to me. I eat, live, breath clay and love everything about it: history, chemistry, studying, or making. Even my area of specialization in archeology is related to ceramics:Tang dynasty/craft specialization and technological advancement in early chinese society. I know how important it is to get into a good program that really challenges you and takes you to the next level. Quite simply, I want to go somewhere that will help me to be great not just good.

I'm a mom, wife, student, and work from home. I've been a re-entry student twice and it's taken me 17 years to finish this degree. I feel like I can't make a mistake with this.

Thanks for reading, any help is greatly appreciated, and I hope I don't come off sounding like a nut job:)

#2 Stephen Robison

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 09:46 AM

1. Potter or Sculptor? If the work is good, in the end does it really matter? Are they used as a criteria for selection? Which gives me the best chance to get me in?

Some programs look for a specific direction such as a potter or sculptor. But I would say most don't. Students I look at for my grad program can focus on either, but focus and continuity in their work is the main thing I look at.

2. What makes a great portfolio? Are there examples on the web to view?

Good strong work that has content and technical abilities that are evident in the work.

3. What qualities are sought out when reviewing MFA applications/portfolios?

Each school has their own guidelines and a complete application is usually the only one looked at.

4. What can I do to set myself apart from other applicants?

Most important if possible is to visit the school and meet the professor or professors and talk to them about your interest in the program. A phone call at least to touch base and ask questions.

5. What are common mistakes you see made?

Not having a strong portfolio before apply. This would be a waste of your money. And not making a personal contact with the professor.

If you, live, breath clay and love everything about it: history, chemistry, studying, or making and you have skills that are at a high level and content that is worth viewing you can get there.



Now, why do you want to go to grad school? Where do you want to go?


Post a link to some of your work. Start a blog if you haven't already. bolgspot.com is quick and easy. If I had more information on your work and resume I could inform you more on what I think are good options for you as an individual.

Good luck!


STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

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http://www.flickr.co...ffpottery/sets/

CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at

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#3 spring

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 12:18 PM

I've wanted to go to grad school since I was a kid. It has been a dream of mine but also I think it offers things that you can't get anywhere else. I enjoy the regular critiques from peers and students. The studio space and being surrounded by people that are at the same level and are just as committed as I am. The energy of creativity within a studio is important I think while exploring what you are passionate about. I also want to get experience teaching at a college level. Eventually I hope to teach at the college level. But mostly, I want the oppurtunity to delve deeper into the process of making; I think that grad school offers that.

As far as which school I would like to go to, I have no idea. If I could stay in sunny california I would love to, but I am ready to try living somewhere else as well.

I checked out the studio at SAIC and rely liked it. I liked that there was a conceptual and interdisciplinary approach to teaching art. The ceramic studio did seem small and I'm a little worried about what some have described as horrible chicago winter's. I always wanted to go to Alfred but I'm not sure that would be the best fit for me.

I'm not sure what the profile is on the average grad student but I'm married and have a family so I would hope that the school I go to is flexible. I mean I plan on getting done what I need to get done but I'm not single. I need teachers that are willing to understand and work with that. Kids get sick, babysitters flake, ###### happens and often it's the moms that deal with it.

I'm starting to work on a website of my work and have considered starting a blog. When they are up I'll let you know.
Thanks




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