Two falls ago, Erica Passage spent day after day throwing pots on a wheel and creating ceramic artistry 11,000 miles away from Morgantown at West Virginia University’s Jingdezhen, China campus.

WVU’s ceramics studio in China, in coordination with Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, is the only one of its kind. While other universities rent out property and partner with other programs to send their students abroad, WVU is the only program to have its own studio in China, including a cafeteria and dorms a two-minute walk away. It offers students the chance to immerse themselves in ceramic culture while making pots in a 26,000 square-foot studio.

“At WVU, you have the opportunity to go to China for an entire semester while receiving college credits, mingle with Chinese folks and eat the food,” Passage said. “You’re included into their culture basically.

“It’s amazing how people are accepted over there so quickly, how the people there immediately want to be your friend,” she said.

In a city of 1.5 million, an estimated 400,000 people in Jingdezhen work in the ceramics trade.

“If you’re into ceramics, this is one of those places you need to visit,” said Shoji Satake, assistant professor in the ceramics program. “The streets in this town are all lined in ceramics – the lamp posts, intersections, stop lights and more have all been done in ceramics. It’s unbelievable.”

Passage, of Michigan, is an Masters of Fine Arts ceramics student in the School of Art & Design who came back to school after teaching art in an elementary school for a year after earning a dual degree in ceramics and K-12 art education. She said her semester abroad was an opportunity to get her fingers and brain back into making art.

“I went to China in the first semester of grad school, and it was great, since I hadn’t made work in the studio full time for a year since I was teaching school,” Passage said. “Being able to go to China and spend intensive amounts of time in the studio was worthwhile – especially, because I didn’t have critiques, papers or distractions with other schoolwork.

“All you do is work on your art.”

An additional highlight of WVU’s program that attracted Passage is the one-of-a-kind production studio in Morgantown separate from the ceramics students’ workspace at the College of Creative Arts, where students learn methods of mass producing ceramic ware, she said.

The space is home to large machinery such as kilns, hydraulic ram pressers, jolly jiggers and other equipment needed to create master design pieces to mold and mass produce pieces.

“We have more than 6,000 square feet of workspace for our students, including our offsite industrial facility where we teach our production methods class. It is very important for students to be educated in the industrial design element to ceramics,” Satake said.

Additional classes offered to ceramics students include kiln-building, ceramic art history, figure modeling, slip-cast mold making, among other specialty classes.

WVU’s ceramics program was recently listed as the 18th best in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools. These rankings, completed in 2012, are based on a fall 2011 survey of art school deans and other top art school academics at 230 MFA programs in art and design.

“The school has gone through big changes in the past five years, since more than half of the arts and design faculty members have been hired within this time,” Satake said. “There are great, established faculty that have been here awhile who have been very receptive to the new ideas that others are bringing in to try to make this program and school even better.

“More and more competitive students have been applying to our ceramics programs every year, and we have the largest amount of MFA students compared to all the other art and design programs at WVU.”

For more information about the ceramics program and the china program, visit School of Art & Design: Ceramics . For more information about the School of Art & Design, visit

By Mel Moraes
University Relations/News



CONTACT: University Relations/News

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