Marisabel Rey '19, left, shows color samples to Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Murtaugh.

As a student art assistant in Hamilton's Kennedy Arts Center, Marisabel Rey ’19 has spent hours loading and unloading kilns in the ceramics studio and is therefore no stranger to the unpredictable nature of firing colored glazes.

After taking Introduction to Ceramics with Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Murtaugh last fall, Rey further studied the behavior of glaze and the ways different samples interact with each other. “I was fascinated by the glazing process (adding color to fired clay) and the seemingly random quality of the results after a second firing. My Emerson project was born out of curiosity and interest in exploring the glazing process further,” she said.

This summer, Rey is expanding upon her introductory knowledge of ceramics, pushing the curriculum past the constraints of a classroom setting. Though Hamilton has both gas and electric kilns, classes almost never use the former, as the process is far too labor intensive.         

Working in the studio over the summer, however, has opened up learning possibilities for Rey that are not feasible during the year. “My priority is not necessarily to make great artwork. I learn so much from the process of creation itself, that the experimentation I am able to do here is reward enough,” she said.

With the help of her advisor Professor Murtaugh, Rey is learning to operate the gas kiln, a device that requires near constant attention during the 20+ hour firing process.

“While trying to understand what about glazing was so interesting to me, I realized there is a clear connection between the unpredictability of glazes in the kiln and various patterns in nature,” said Rey. This realization helped her focus her proposal, treating the random behavior of glaze in the kiln as a type of organic process.                                            

about Marisabel Rey ’19

Majors: studio arts and literature

Hometown: Lima, Peru

High School: Markham College


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After mixing her own glazes, Rey paints them onto test tiles and fires each, cataloging the specific attributes of each recipe. Once she creates a scheme of colors, inspired by combinations drawn from nature, Rey will construct three large-scale, abstract ceramic sculptures, matching form to glaze. But nature is represented not just in the glazing techniques.

Even the material of clay, drawn directly from the earth, is in line with Rey’s reconception of  natural schema.

“My work is formed from a type of mud and is glazed to mimic organic color patterns. With the technical skills I am learning, I am able to create work that feels as though it has been drawn directly from the colorful and alive world around me,” said Rey.

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