CEDAR RAPIDS — Hiromi Iyoda’s hands move gently as she talks, curving gray clay around a circular base until it overlaps. It looks like a mug, but with a modern twist.
Without missing a beat, she moves to another mug in progress, pressing on a knob handle, then using a delicate tool to whisk away excess clay at the seam.
She is creating two mugs slightly outside the norm, to show her students how to push creative boundaries.
Iyoda is one of eight resident artists teaching and working at the Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio at the Cherry Building in New Bohemia. The culturally rich district is an apt place for artists who come from around the country to find their niche and hone their skills before investing their own money in ceramics and glass kilns, pottery wheels and materials if they decide to equip a private studio.
The Ceramic Center’s public, shared model will help them mold their future paths in exchange for teaching classes for preschoolers, students, community members and the business sector in the 10,000-square foot Cherry Building studio or on the road in parks, festivals and corporate settings.
And at least one piece from the artists will remain in Cedar Rapids after they move on from their one- or two-year residency. These works will fill two second-floor galleries at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art from Saturday (11/3) to Oct. 6, 2019. “Terra Nova: Ten Years” celebrates a decade of collaboration between the museum, the Ceramics Center and its artists-in-residence. The display features pieces donated to the museum by the 40 resident artists who have come through the Ceramics Center since it opened its new home in 2009 and initiated the residency program.
It’s a win-win for the museum and for the young artists.
“It’s a good experience for them, so they can add a line on their (resume) that they have a piece in a museum collection — and we get to grow our 3D collections. It really is mutually beneficial,” said Kate Kunau, associate curator at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
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She calls the first gallery the “vessels room,” filled with vases, tea pots, cups and bowls, including four vases by former Ceramics Center Executive Director Ben Jensen and a wooden bowl by current Executive Director Ellen Kleckner, who took the helm in May 2016.
Visitors also will see glass pieces as they pass to the second room. Kunau described it as a “little more out-of-the box” gallery, pointing to the eclectic mix of animals, organic forms and portraits busts. One of the first pieces you’ll see is Iyoda’s mixed media steam-punk snail, titled “What Else is There?” sporting mechanical gadgets and gizmos attached to its shell. Next to it is a delicate sea urchin hemmed with sparkling jewels.
“It’s really fun, just because of all the different kinds of objects,” Kunau said. “Each piece is very distinct and different, so it’s fun to put together.”
Having a piece at the Museum of Art is “super cool,” Iyoda said, especially since she just arrived in Cedar Rapids in September from a previous residency in Houston. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a piece on display at a museum, so thank you so much. It’s just great — I just moved, and I already have a show at the museum.” She’s already added that to her resume, too.
Iyoda came to the United States from her home in rural Japan to study, earning her undergraduate degree at California State-Long Beach and her graduate degree three years ago at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since then, she’s moved from residency to residency, working in ceramics and mixed media, as evidenced in her snail that includes wood, wire and paper elements.
Ceramics is her first love, so she’s glad to be focusing on that now, in her own work and with her students.
“One thing you can say about ceramics is that it’s just almost always like what you expect never happens,” she said. “It’s always unexpected — during the firing, during the drying stage. Nothing’s guaranteed, but then students learn how to maneuver with ‘OK, we got this instead of that. What can I do to fix it?’ So a lot of times, it’s problem solving. That skill can apply to anywhere after the school.”
She likes the natural aspect of clay, noting it comes from dirt, is mixed with water and then fire, becoming hard like rock. It can break, she said, but it won’t break down over time.
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“I like that the things I make can outlive my life,” she said. “I don’t have kids, so something I make can survive my life span. It’s kind of exciting.”
A complementary exhibit, “A Formed Community: Current Works of Past Resident Artists,” is on display at the Ceramics Center through Nov. 17.
Both exhibitions are launching the center’s 10-year milestone observation, culminating in a celebration in September 2019. Next up is an exhibit of works by community members, which will be on display during the holidays in the Ceramic Center’s gallery.
That’s appropriate, since uniting a community with creativity is at the core of the nonprofit center’s mission.
“Our community in Cedar Rapids stays the same,” Kleckner said. “The way to bring in new creativity, new exposure is to support and bring it through these different artists, because they are the people that teach our classes.” And sometimes they decide to stay and make Cedar Rapids their home base, she added. And sometimes the students stay, with 120 active studio members using the center’s facilities on a weekly basis.
“We really are building this creative community,” Kleckner said. “The residency wouldn’t exist without the center, the center wouldn’t exist without the residency. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”
WHAT: Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio 10th anniversary exhibitions
WHERE: “Terra Nova: Ten Years,” Saturday (11/3) to Oct. 6, 2019, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE; noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday Friday, Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; $7 adults to $3 ages 6 to 18, free ages 5 and under; Crma.org
WHERE: “A Formed Community: Current Works of Past Resident Artists,” to Nov. 17, Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio, Cherry Building Suite 117, 329 10th Ave., Cedar Rapids; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Iowaceramicscenter.org