Art professor Ted Neal’s students leave Ball State with more than a solid understanding of ceramics.

As a national expert on building kilns, Neal knows how to harness fire for creative purposes, and he passes that knowledge onto his students.

Kiln building is a really unique part of our program. There aren’t many other programs that have that in their curriculum. So, to have that is one of our strengths.

Neal has built more than 100 kilns for other universities, studios, and art centers. His craftsmanship encompasses various kiln styles, and he’s even built pizza ovens.

Born and raised in rural upstate New York, Neal earned his BFA from Utah State University and MFA from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

His ceramic work, which combine utility and self-expression, has been featured in numerous exhibitions. Neal said he was most satisfied with his vessel creations when they serve both as useful objects “and also embodies loftier ideas such as beauty, connectedness and shared kinesthetic experiences.”

As an artist, Neal explores how humans consume—and overconsume—natural resources. So, it should come as no surprise, then, that he helps other artists and art programs develop kilns and studios that are energy efficient.

Above all, though, Neal cares about the success of his students at Ball State, where he has taught since 2006.

Teaching a full range of ceramics techniques and aesthetics, Neal also shows students how building their own kilns on a budget can help them establish their studios and find clients and customers quickly. Commercial kilns are expensive, Neal said, and out of reach for many young artists.

Beyond kiln building, Neal’s students also get a healthy dose of instruction about the importance of being involved in their communities and building a social network. They develop these skills first-hand through pottery sales and other events that benefit local non-profits.

Muncie, Neal pointed out, has a rich heritage of ceramics. Muncie Pottery was founded in 1919 and produced beautiful art deco and arts and crafts ceramics that are still highly sought be collectors, and the tradition continues to thrive with Made in Muncie Pottery, a contemporary pottery studio and gallery space in downtown Muncie.

“There is no such thing as a successful artist that doesn’t engage their community,” he said.

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