Pitner Ave., Evanston, IL 60202
Waubonsee Community College Professor Doug Jeppesen
International Wood Fire Conference Planned for October
Associate Professor Doug Jeppesen has worked tirelessly for the past two decades to build his vibrant ceramic arts department at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois. This two-year institution located less than an hour west of Chicago offers comprehensive education for nearly 15,000 local residents in a wide variety of fields. Jeppesen’s students represent the range of academic majors, reflecting the institution’s philosophy that the arts are an integral part of a liberal education. “I have so much support from the administration here,” he says. As the college celebrates its 50th birthday this year, Jeppesen’s long term dream of hosting an international wood-firing conference will come to fruition this fall as part of the college’s celebration.
Jeppesen attended the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa, originally interested in earning a degree in landscape architecture, but was unsure of his direction. He tells of how he was inspired and mentored by two professors there, enabling him to get back on track and pursue an art degree: “As a young man, I never had an art class in my life,” he says. “In fifth grade, I was doodling in class when the teacher wadded up my picture and threw it out. I never drew again until I was in college. Two professors - Virgil Lampton and Tom Manhart – inspired me. A friend of mine was taking Ceramics with Tom and he invited me to, ‘Come in here and get dirty!’ The next semester I enrolled in Ceramics I, and four weeks into the term I knew this was what I would be doing as a career. I was amazed by Tom’s love of the materials.” Jeppesen went on to earn both a B.A. in Art History and a B.F.A. in Art at Tulsa and a M.F.A. at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he began teaching. His undergraduate experience of being guided by caring professors influenced his decision to become an educator. He recalls a pivotal night of conversation and throwing clay with visiting artist Jim Tanner, Professor Emeritus from Mankato State University after he offered him a lift back to the university studio. “I was learning to throw, and we threw pots and had an amazing conversation until 2 a.m. That was important to me. It changed my direction.” Jeppesen’s first teaching position was at Kishwaukee College near DeKalb. He was hired for his first full-time teaching position at Waubonsee a few years later, in 1998. He tries to give his students the same personal concern and inspiration that he experienced.
Jeppesen bases his teaching philosophy on his own artistic evolution. “My work has undergone a slow, steady, process of development,” he explains. “I try to pay attention to what intrigues me.” He focuses on lines and angles in things he sees. “I love looking at the landscape from the air, to see how it breaks down into lines,” he says. A trip to Colorado, with its jagged mountains and switchback roads, inspired him. He speaks of the incubation period of inspiration. “I recently was looking at some photos of a sculpture I had done and saw something familiar in it – it brought back the angles on the ceiling of my childhood top-floor bedroom. I pulled out an old picture of the room, lined it up with the sculpture photo, and the lines matched up perfectly!” This sense of images and ideas being deeply impressed on and hidden in the imagination fascinates him. “I found out not long ago,” he says, “that an ancestor of mine was a barnstorming pilot who made maps for aviators. That amazed me, that this affinity for precision, deconstruction, and lines could be part of my genetic heritage.” He does his own creative work continuously as part of his teaching. He does not make demonstration pots for his classes, saying, “I make my own work. I want the students to understand the care that I take with each piece. If I’m not making work, I can’t expect my students to.” In this way, he encourages their own imaginations and vision and discourages mere imitation.
Jeppesen arrived at Waubonsee, there was not one wood-fired kiln in
the art department. He built one. Today, the school has a fully
equipped studio, with an outdoor kiln center with five wood-fired
kilns, an Anagama kiln, and a gas-fired soda kiln. He oversees a
wood firing two to three times each semester. His students range in
age and experience, from traditional freshman to retired
professionals. He teaches approximately 60 students each semester,
steering those with greater interest to summer opportunities such as
Penland School of Crafts and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts.
Exposure to working artists is an integral part of Jeppesen’s
teaching. He instituted a visiting artist program which brings in
artists to teach and work with students each semester. He also help
start an art collection at the college, which features student
artwork and work from visiting artists. Pieces are purchased each
semester by the college and are displayed throughout the campus.
“The college is so good about encouraging art appreciation
throughout the school,” Jeppesen says, “and in supporting the arts
both philosophically and financially.”
It is the college’s enthusiasm for the arts that has enabled Jeppesen to bring the wood firing conference to Waubonsee this fall. When he approached the administration with his proposal, the college president told him, “We are planning some big things for this 50th year celebration, and yours is one of them.” That the arts would be so readily included is an indication of how important they are to the college. The International Wood Fire Conference will start with a two-week pre-conference workshop for fourteen artists who will work in the campus studios and fire the wood kilns, from September 25 through October 4. This pre-conference is already filled. Starting on October 6, the main conference will feature noted keynote speakers, lectures, panel discussions, and an exhibition. The list of presenters includes participants from the United States, Iceland, Australia, Germany, among other countries. Jeppesen hopes to have close to 400 conference attendees. With this gathering of artists, Waubonsee’s students will be sure to benefits from the exchange of knowledge, creativity, and inspiration that have been the hallmark of Jeppesen’s artistic and teaching career.
For more information about Doug Jeppesen, visit www.dougjeppesen.com.
For more information about Waubonsee Community College, visit www.waubonsee.edu.
Wood Fire Conference
October 6-8, 2016
Waubonsee's Sugar Grove Campus
Waubonsee Community College will host the next International Wood Fire Conference October 6 – 8, 2016 in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The focus of this conference is to continue the ongoing dialogue about the wood fire process that began at the conferences in Iowa and Northern Arizona as it relates to the ceramic arts. The registration fee for the three-day conference will be $175.00 per person and is limited to 400 participants.
The pre-conference will be September 26 – October 4 where we will fire as many of our five wood kilns, which includes a 180 Cubic Foot Tube, Anagama, Barrel Arch (wood/salt), and the two Train Kilns. Each kiln will have a firing leader and will follow a different firing schedule and technique. Registration for the pre-conference will be open to 30 individuals at a cost of $150.00 person. Each registered participant will be allowed to bring ten cubic feet of cone 10 bisqueware to fire in the kilns. A selection of glazes and slips will be available for participants.
Confirmed Artists (more to come soon!)
Mark Hewitt, Keynote Speaker
Chris Gustin, Closing Speaker
Visit https://www.waubonsee.edu/learning/academics/disciplines/humanities/art/areas/ceramics/woodfire/ for more information and to register.