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July 17, 2015

New Ceramics Department chair brings passion for design

Seth Nagelberg taught at Parsons School of Design in New York for 13 years

New Ceramics Department chair brings passion for design

By Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz

Big change is coming to CIA’s Ceramics Department with the appointment of renowned artist and designer Seth Nagelberg as department chair.

A graduate of Hartford Art School (BFA) and Cranbrook Academy of Art (MFA), Nagelberg comes to CIA after a 13-year stint teaching in the industrial design program at Parsons School of Design in New York.

Widely published in ceramics periodicals, Nagelberg also put out a book this year called Batch Manufacturing for Ceramics: Models and Molds, Process to Product. He has done consultation work for Rookwood Pottery and fabrication for Calvin Klein Collection, and Nagelberg’s work has been exhibited from coast to coast.

“I choose clay for its properties,” Nagelberg said about his work. “Whether working from ready-made objects or starting from a sketch, I strive to create a cohesive language of forms that inform and inspire new designs. My exploration of manufacturing techniques and technology enable me to connect the past and future of ceramics.”

Marrying the artistry of ceramics and the process of design has become second nature to Nagelberg, and the knowledge that CIA would provide fertile ground for his efforts is part of what drew him to the school.

“I was looking for a program where I could go back into a crafts or arts department, but that was willing to embrace what I was doing with design,” Nagelberg said.

It also helped that “CIA is equipped to do anything. The facilities are remarkable: huge kilns, lots of different clays, great machinery, lots of open space to work in. I was incredibly impressed,” he added.

For its part, what convinced CIA’s search committee that Nagelberg was the “best fit for the future of the ceramics program” was his “interest and experience in teaching ceramic design,” along with a powerful background in sculpture and 3D design, according to Christopher Whittey, vice president of faculty affairs and chief academic officer.

Whittey said, “Seth promises to be a key figure, with the others members of Craft and Design, in a continual rethinking of the traditional craft areas of the school to incorporate more technology and design.”

For Nagelberg, CIA’s “fantastic spirit of trying new things” not only made the school a good fit for him, but also marked it as a place poised to take a leadership role in helping influence how ceramics will evolve in the future.

“I want to look at ceramics and ask the question, What is it going to be in 2050? What is the culture going to be like in 30 years, 35 years?”

In the near term, Nagelberg plans to focus on helping students become adept at using design strategies in their ceramics work.

“Often a student will have a great idea, and they’ll just make it. No matter the scale, no matter the difficulty, they’ll just struggle,” he said. The design process Nagelberg uses with students involves a more strategic approach. “Research, ideation, sketching and the creation of mood boards” are all part of a process that leads to a technical drawing of a student’s concept. And all these critical steps are completed before students craft their pieces.

Nagelberg replaces Judith Salomon, who retired in this spring after 39 years of teaching at CIA. He was chosen after an exhaustive search process that included reviews of more than 50 portfolios, 13 extensive interviews, and visits to campus by the top three candidates, who came for intensive two-day workshops as well as interviews with all interested faculty and students.

“CIA is in the midst of a watershed moment in its physical facilities and its direction as an institution. The committee felt that Seth was the best fit for the future of the ceramics program, the Craft and Design Environment, and the institution,” said Professor William Brouillard, who chaired the search committee.

“Seth’s interest in and experience in teaching ceramic design was a major factor in our decision along with his background in sculpture and 3D design. Seth has extensive teaching experience and will be able to step into the position of department head with confidence. The committee felt that he would be able to transition CIA ceramics into a unique department that would distinguish itself and CIA.”

As excited about moving to Cleveland as he is to becoming a part of CIA’s esteemed faculty and sharing his skills and expertise with the school’s students, Nagelberg said he’s been very impressed by the city.

“There are a lot of people starting small businesses, being artists, being designers and crafts people,” Nagelberg said. “I like Cleveland’s pioneering spirit.”

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz is a freelance writer/editor and instructor of journalism and mass communication. She lives on the West Side of Cleveland.

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