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Ohio Northern Professor accepted to exhibit work at national show in Chicago

August—Ohio Northern University Art & Design faculty member, Luke Sheets, assistant professor of art and design, has been selected to exhibit his ceramic work at the Lillstreet Art Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. The exhibit “Best Served Hot: Ceramics for the Coffee Ritual,” celebrates the handcrafted mug.

So when the center, filled with ceramic mugs, set out to choose a theme for its sixth annual juried ceramics exhibition, coffee seemed like a natural fit. “We’re all pretty big coffee drinkers,” says Sarah West Ervin, Lillstreet’s director of marketing and communications, noting that the center’s offices, too, are well-stocked with handmade drink ware.

Lillstreet Gallery partnered with Intelligentsia Coffee to present “Best Served Hot: Ceramics for the Coffee Ritual.” The show was juried by Mark Lyman, Executive Director of SOFA, the International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art, and by Joseph Pintz, ceramic artist and professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Works are judged based on craftsmanship, aesthetic, and innovation in form and function.

The collection of selected works emphasizes the ceremony of slowly sipping on a finely crafted beverage. To many, mornings are about more than just the act of drinking coffee, it’s about the art of drinking coffee. Intelligentsia prides its product on being cultivated not by traditional harvesters, but by artisans, and the quality of a well-constructed roast deserves a vessel hand-shaped with the same unspoken ingredients that turn coffee from drinkable to exceptional: the intangibles of time, love, knowledge, and dedication.

While tea ceremony is an art both ancient and well-defined, coffee ceremony continues to redefine itself, thanks to an industry of dedicated professionals and an ever-evolving brewing science. Today the industry is thronged with sleek, handcrafted brewing apparati, and roasters are more dedicated than ever to isolating the unique experience of each batch. If this trend marches on—led by high-quality, small-batch roasters and DIY coffee fanatics—it’s no stretch to expect an upsurge in homespun mug ware as well.

“Ceramics and coffee kind of go hand in hand,” says Lillstreet Gallery director Jess Mott Wickstrom. “People go to Crate & Barrel to get their dishware and shop all around for table settings, but for some reason a handmade mug seems to be a very personal thing.” The exhibit, which runs from August 23 to September 29, features ceramic coffee vessels from 28 artists in 17 states, including cream and sugar sets, pour-overs, carafes, and coffee sets with mugs and a tray, with a central theme connecting handcrafted objects to handcrafted beans.

Wickstrom says that when Lillstreet decided to partner with Chicago-based craft roaster Intelligentsia Coffee, the exhibition became more about the entire coffee experience. “There’s this incredible process with clay, and any one step can derail the whole thing,” she says. “With Intelligentsia, that’s how they approach coffee as well: from seed to cup.” Intelligentsia, known for being hands-on at the source, works alongside growers to ensure quality harvests and sends coffee buyers to origin countries year-round.

Whether or not the exhibit harkens to a new trend in DIY coffee vessels, to Wickstrom the union of coffee and sculpture art makes sense. “It’s so interesting that coffee has this trajectory and has traveled all this way, and the mug has its own trajectory through the artist. That they come together in the final moment of enjoying coffee is kind of a poetic thing.”

Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center is a large community of artists and students working side-by-side in a friendly environment which encourages and inspires artistic growth in the individual. It supports the arts through an artist residency program, gallery, studio space, education, and an outreach program.

Prof. Luke Sheets is an assistant professor in ceramics and director of the 3D program at Ohio Northern’s department of art & design. He earned his BFA from Ohio Northern University and his MFA from Bowling Green State University. His research interests include experimenting with clays and glazes to discover how they react with wood-kiln firing and incorporating local materials into the process. His work has been accepted into many national competitions including the Majestic Galleries’ National Juried Competition 2009, the “Drink: Functional Forms for Every Libation” international competition, the 8th Annual National Juried Cup Show and the 6th Annual “It’s Only Clay” National Exhibition. In 2005, he had work included in “500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility and Grace,” and most recently in 2013, was published in “500 Teapots: Contemporary Explorations of a Timeless Design” (Vol. 2), both books published by Lark Books. At ONU, Prof. Sheets teaches ceramics, sculpture and 3D design. He also is the adviser to the Kappa Pi international art honorary.

Originally designated as the School of Fine Arts and later the College of Fine Arts, the art & design program was first established as an independent academic unit at Ohio Northern in 1878, largely as an outgrowth of course work in engineering and architectural drawing. Today, Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2013–14 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: Luke Sheets, “One Figure, Two” and detail