Continuing Education

Instructor Profile: Liz Duarte

North Seattle College Ceramics instructor Liz Duarte has been instrumental in shaping the CE program into one of unprecedented popularity. We figured it was time we got some insight into how she came to love ceramics and why it continues to inspire her.

ImagePlease give us some background on your life in ceramics. When did you first discover you had an affinity for it?

My favorite outdoor activity as a child was playing in the mud. I loved poetry, music and drawing and I loved to redecorate my room. I spent many an hour moving posters and furniture to find the most pleasing arrangement. I think that helped to develop my desire for esthetically pleasing solutions. I didn’t discover clay until college. I didn’t know what I wanted to focus on, but I had gone to figure drawing classes on my own and really enjoyed them. Figure drawing was my first class at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, CA. Then came design, then sculpture and then Ceramics! I got more into the idea of getting my Associates Degree at that point. They had a really cool Clay Club and I had a great group of friends. I assisted with summer classes for kids, and then I started working for San Diego Job Corps in the Arts and Crafts Department.

When did you feel called to be a professional artist and instructor?

As I was finishing up my degree I started hearing from Ripon College in WI. I knew I wanted to major in Art. In my class there were 5 Art majors and it was a small town, so we were the artists. I loved it—I even spent summers there! We had huge studios full of equipment and amazing professors.

Gene Kain was my sculpture professor. His wife Evelyn was my Art History professor. They became family. When my appendix ruptured, they nursed me back to health. I walked their dog Panda through the wetland trail behind the Art Department. It was such an amazing and supportive community. They encouraged me to go to graduate school. I think Gene worried that if I didn’t go, I might stay at Ripon College forever!

I probably would have...

I did some more summer art camps for kids and then my Painting professor, Kevin Brady recommended me for a job as a drawing teacher at University of Fond du Lac. I tried too hard to be professional, but once I relaxed and I got to know the students it became fun for me. Around that time, I was accepted to George Washington University in Washington, DC. I taught for the program and worked closely with J.J. McCracken who was the lab tech at the Imagetime. That studio was our clubhouse and we made it pretty awesome! We were there all the time and once again, I found myself in another amazing community, but an expensive place to live. I taught a couple hand building Ceramics classes for the college before moving to Seattle. It was at that time that I began working with the National Council of Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference. My job was to organize a small group of volunteers each year to fill goodie bags.

I began looking for a place to work and found Pottery Northwest and The Pottery School. I can’t say that there was a particular moment when my destiny presented itself, rather it was a series of opportunities that made it apparent.

The ceramics community at North Seattle College is most inspiring, I love the school setting, the idea that there is always more to discover. Teaching in particular, I love figuring out ways to communicate ideas, that’s what makes it interesting for me.

Do you have a ceramics dream project you have always wanted to explore?

I would like to produce a sculpture a month for one year. That would be luxurious!

Continuing Education ceramics classes are incredibly popular. Why does the art form have such tremendous attraction and fascination for students? 

Working with ceramics requires you to adapt to the drying time of the material. Coming to class once a week is not enough, the work needs your constant attention. The more you invest the more your skills improve and it shows in the work you do. There is so much to learn in your first (beginning) class and practice makes better. It’s easy to get hooked!

You have done much to build the North Seattle College Ceramics program. Tell us about some of your proudest your accomplishments.

Back when I was the lab tech for the North Seattle College I worked with the Art Department Imageand the Sustainability Committee to purchase a pug mill. It was great to combine my interests in sustainable solutions with my work in ceramics.

The CE Student Art Show has been an amazing addition to the program. It’s really great to be able to showcase the talents of this community. I am grateful to Amanda Knowles and the other Art faculty for supporting this.

What do you enjoy most about teaching ceramics? What excites you about your students’ process?

I really like it when my students get it... when they become aware that they are artists and are confident in their abilities.

Learn more about CE Ceramics program.