The Clay Club at the University of Central Arkansas seeks to increase interest and involvement in the ceramic arts and to give students opportunities to grow their skills.

This past week, members sat outside McCastlain Hall on campus with the goal of selling enough pieces, all handmade by students, to travel to the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts Conference (NCECA) scheduled for the spring of 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Alma Horlock, an art major at UCA, said they need to raise $5,000 to allow more students the opportunity to go on the trip.

"I think because we’re all students there’s a lot of value in being able to go to, basically, a collective of different styles and see different artists who are making a living doing [the] work [that] we’re striving [toward]," she said. "That’s kind of what we’re working [toward] so it’s nice to see people making a living and how they kind of set up their businesses."

Horlock said not only does the conference gives them a chance to meet with other artists and watch their work habits, but students will also have the opportunity to take part in demonstrations to learn different techniques and see how the clay and pottery professional is evolving with the many uses of new tools and technology.

"It’s interesting to get to see the new ways that people are using clay because it’s sometimes not anything you’d ever expect and then some of it is so obvious and you’re like ‘wow, I can’t believe I never thought of that,’" she said. "That setting kind of creates an environment where students can grow."

Horlock said working with clay is not something she’s always been interested in — her original focus was graphic design — and only started working with the medium about two years ago.

"I think, naively, I thought ‘oh there’s less value to a functional piece’ and I 100 percent have changed my opinion on that," she said.

Functional pieces, Horlock explained, are just like the word suggests … an item that can be used like a cup or bowl.

"I guess it’s kind of nice with functional work to know that people will use it and that’s something that’s going to be something that someone will interact with," she said.

Horlock said there are three types of styles to working with clay — hand built, thrown and slip-casting — and every artist in the club is different when making the choice of what to use and the university offers all three classes for students.

"A lot of it is personal preference," she said. "I do all three."

Wes Hart, took up the passion after he enrolled in a hand-building class and like it so much he changed his major to ceramics from art education.

"There is so much to learn in this emphasis," he said. "It pretty much never stops and that’s why I [chose] it. I can’t learn all of it at once. It’s always going to be something more than I can learn."

Hart wants to be a potter one day, using figurative art to express himself.

"With my works specifically, I included just random people and their stories around the bowl so the image is on the inside and the story is around the outside of the bowl," he said. "I really just want to draw attention to random people. We walk by people all the time and don’t really know them but they have really deep stories."

Hart said he was inspired to do this and got the idea from Humans of New York, a photography project by Brandon Stanton that began in 2010, who sought to photograph residents and tell their stories.

He said right he’s doing his own version of that but with portraits of art students.

"I like figuring out people’s stories and just learning things I wouldn’t typically learn if I was just walking by them," Hart said.

For anyone interested in donating to the UCA Clay Club, contact advisor Liz Smith at 501-450-5780 or