Student Spotlight: Ceramics student explores family history and memory through variety of mediums

BFA student Ivy Jewell’s work, which was displayed April 3-7 in the Visual Arts Building, creates a deeply personal and quiet experience for viewers.


Contributed photo of Ivy Jewell.

Emma Gaughan, Arts Reporter

Through the exploration of her family tree, Ivy Jewell created a deeply nostalgic and quiet art gallery.

Ivy Jewell is a ceramics student receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. She uses art to explore her maternal lineage through a wide range of mediums she explored throughout her time as a student, including ceramics, photography, and even taxidermy. Jewell will graduate in May.

Jewell said art has been a healing process for her. Interacting with art allowed her to sit and examine feelings and ideas, helped her navigate mental health as a child, and encouraged her to explore how to make something out of those feelings.

“Art has always been a really therapeutic thing for me,” Jewell said.

After growing up in North Liberty, Jewell moved to Seattle, where she worked in glassblowing. She lived there until the COVID-19 pandemic, when she returned to Iowa to be closer to family.

After returning to Iowa, Jewell wanted to rediscover her hometown. She became interested in discovering peace and acceptance and exploring her maternal line and survived. She said her work is a discovery not only of herself, but also of the family who came before her.

Jewell’s education in Iowa served as an opportunity for Jewell to discover herself as an artist. In Seattle, Jewell said her work focused on making art for others in a space where her own voice could not be heard.

“I am finally comfortable and confident enough to try to be an artist,” Jewell said. “And that takes a lot. It takes a lot to get to that point.”

Jewell uses many mediums that she’s encountered over the years, though she focuses on ceramics at the UI. In some of her work, Jewell uses a material called excelsior, which is used in taxidermy. She coats this material in porcelain, allowing for unique shapes and images. The material is typically used to create the shape and filling of a taxidermy project.

“You can still get these really strong ideas just based off of associations with a material,” Jewell said. “It’s preservation to me, and it’s softening, and I think that really lends itself to working with memory.”

In exploring her maternal lineage, Jewell touches on themes of memory, history, and relationships. She can look at her family history through photographs and stories, and she reflects that in her own work, which also includes photography.

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In the fall, Jewell will attend graduate school at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where she hopes to continue to grow as an artist. She is interested in how a change of environment will affect her work — especially her current familial themes.

Jewell said she aims to continue sharing her work and creating quiet spaces for reflection in future galleries, and she is excited to form new connections with other artists. While she is excited about the change of scenery, she shared that she has appreciated the facilities at the UI — especially the lighting and openness.

“I have been trying to create a really quiet environment where people can reflect and think about their relationships,” Jewell said. “I think, all in all, it would be great if someone could come to the show and then call their grandma after, tell them that they love them.”