Everyday items made beautiful: UI student creates ceramic art through intricate designs

UI B.F.A. ceramics artist, Hannah Song, creates functional items with detailed designs inspired by cake-making.


Emily Wangen

University of Iowa B.F.A. student Hannah Song poses for a portrait in her studio space inside the Visual Arts Building on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Song became interested in ceramics after taking classes during her first year at the UI.

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Reporter

University of Iowa senior Hannah Song stood out like a light on the open ocean in the dimly lit coffee shop. Clutching a stuffed animal llama satchel in one arm and wearing a pink sweatshirt and matching pink eye shadow, the Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics candidate explained how she enjoys ceramics over painting and drawing, a medium of art that she once held in high favor.

“I feel like with painting and drawing, I get tired of it quicker, but with ceramics, it’s always exciting,” Song said. “You have to stop at certain points because you have to work with the clay to let the clay dry for a little bit at certain points, bisque firing, and you have to glaze it; there’s so many steps to the process. It’s so exciting to open up the kiln and see how everything turned out.”

Song molds clay into functional items such as cups, bowls, and plates while using cake piping techniques to add elaborate swirls and flowers onto her ceramic items. Her interest in baking cakes sparked this unique concept.

“I really enjoy making cakes and desserts, so it kind of goes hand in hand with that because it’s something to present it on,” she said.

Recently, Song has dabbled in colored porcelain, and uses mason stains to add color to her clay.

“For the piping, I take the clay and I water it down so it kind of loosens up and I can pipe with it,” Song said. “It’s like coloring with frosting, almost.”

Song’s artwork presents itself in an elegant manner; with smooth edges and detailed designs mirroring herself as an artist.

“I feel like it’s just the way I am,” Song said. “If I try to make something, kind of like, messier or more organic or whatever, my brain just wants to smooth everything out or make it kind of neat.”

Emily Wangen
Ceramic works sit on a bench inside University of Iowa BFA student Hannah Song’s studio space inside the Visual Arts Building on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Song became interested in ceramics after taking classes her first year at the UI.

The artist took a ceramics class while she had a bachelor of arts in studio art, and loved the faculty in the department. Once she enrolled into a second level ceramics course, Song learned the technique of wheel throwing, allowing her to fall in love with the artistic medium even more.

“That’s what I really enjoyed, and it’s weird that I like it because I feel like I still don’t really have the hang of it,” she said. “Throwing something and centering it and getting the walls even and all that, it’s so difficult. But, I like that because it’s similar to the way you have to be precise about it.”

Song then changed her major to ceramics, though she neglected to tell her parents because they were already uneasy at the thought of Song pursuing art.

“Yeah, I didn’t tell them I was switching my major until like a little ways into it,” she said and laughed. “They were like, ‘what the hell are you going to do with that?’ you know, like, just wait, just let me do it.”

With the artist set to graduate next spring, she said she hopes to make a living by selling her artwork.

“If [art] is something that you truly love, at least try,” Song said. “You’ll probably regret not doing it in the future.”

Related: UI graduate student beautifies the world of insects through scenic photography

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