From Bluegrass to Clay and Kilns
Known by his students as Jeremy or Junior, UAS Professor Jeremy Kane does much more than just teach students how to work clay.
By: Hollis Kitchin
Professor Kane is in his fifth year of teaching art at UAS; he is working towards making the art program larger by creating a challenging and supportive program. Along with teaching ceramics and exhibiting his art, Kane has played Bluegrass banjo throughout Alaskan communities for 10 years.
Kane first worked with clay at the Springfield Art Museum in Ohio for several years as a youngster.
“When I was 8, my first teacher let me have a lot of freedom in the making process. She would smoke cigarettes as she threw pots, I can still imagine her hands using the needle tool and holding that cigarette,” Kane said.
An alumnus of UAF, Kane received his Bachelors in Fine Arts and then went on to Ohio University to pursue his Masters in Fine Arts. Following OU, Kane received the Taunt Fellowship at the Archie Bray Foundation located in Helena Montana. The Archie Bray Foundation is a nonprofit institution that provides a place for those serious about the ceramic arts to live and work on their art.
In college, Kane started taking ceramics seriously. When Kane realized that he could make a living making things out of clay, he was sold. There is always someone in a ceramics studio working on the wheel, listening to music, glazing pots, no matter what time of day and Kane says he likes that enthusiasm.
“I’ve always jokingly said that I always gotten my best advice in life from the ceramics studio because of its diverse clientele. By the end of the day someone has an answer to any problem.” Kane explained that other classes do not always offer such opportunities for communication.
Ceramics creates a family atmosphere where everyone has to work together to succeed whether it is students mixing up a new batch of clay, mixing glazes or giving advice on how to make a cup lighter. Often, standing behind your own work takes a great deal of support from others and teaches you a lot of confidence.
“As an undergraduate in Fairbanks, I often spent my days in the studio. Alaska taught me to focus all my time on things that really matter to me like making things and doing things that don’t require money, they require time and patience and skill. When I was living in the lower 48, I spent most of my time detailing cars and making money, being creative and traveling a lot, however the busyness never allotted me the time to personally sit down and play my guitar, or make things or ceramics,” Kane said.
Kane and his band, “The Great Alaska Bluegrass Band,” have been playing together for the past 3 years. “I started my first Bluegrass band, ‘Clark County,’ in Fairbanks, and I was 19. My best friends from Ohio and I all started a band, and we played for 6 solid years together while I was in Fairbanks, traveling all over Alaska.”
Although in his band Kane plays the banjo, he learned guitar as a child. When Kane got into college, he started putting his music into perspective and basically taught himself by going to various Blues concerts, Rock and Roll concerts and different types of events in his youth.
At UAS, Kane has created a successful visiting artist program, bringing in artists from the lower 48 to UAS twice a year. Kane has also made many physical contributions to UAS such as the successful building of both a traditional wood-fire kiln and wood-fire pizza oven.
With the intricate ceramic process and the use of the pizza oven, Kane has created a functional and fun atmosphere within his classes. “I lead by example, and I also try to push students as much as I can to work together. Unlike some Professors, I’m not competition with my students, so I’m willing to share all my tricks.”
Influenced by the Asian shapes and highly decorated surfaces of jars, bowls, plates, and cups; Kane's work meshes with American lifestyles. By putting images of semi-trucks, white-tail deer, American flags, and NASCAR flames on his work, he gives it the appearance of a highly decorated Chinese vase, but makes someone look twice at his work.
Along with his show on March 6, Kane and his Intermediate and Advanced ceramics classes are working on donating 250 soup bowls for the Empty Bowls event in April. With this goal each student is required to make 15 bowls.
Another program Kane hopes to create is a new “Visiting Student Artist Program,” where students come from other colleges to work on their ceramics in a new and quiet environment and get a chance to see the artistic community within Juneau.
From his beginnings in Ohio to his teaching at UAS, Professor Jeremy Kane has made the ceramics studio a place to work, relax and listen to some tunes.