Plates to feed the soul

Three WSU artists present ceramic work from 30-day plate challenge at Dahmen Barn



A plate by artist Kassie Smith sits on display at Dahmen Barn Sunday in Uniontown, Washington.

MIKAYLA FINNERTY, Staff Reporter and Social Media Consultant

Three WSU-affliated artists will be showcasing handcrafted ceramic plates at Dahmen Barn for the rest of November. 

The plates were created for #30platesin30days, an international 30-day challenge that occurred in October. The artists were given 30 prompts in advance and made one to two plates a day. Each day, a winner was chosen by a panel of well-known ceramics and pottery artists. 

The “Mange a ‘Trois” exhibit at Dahmen Barn in Uniontown, Washington, features roughly 90 of the handmade plates created by WSU grad student Adam Stuart, ceramic coordinator Iolanda Palmer and ceramics technician Kassie Smith.

Palmer said she started her ceramic work in late August to ensure the plates were made in time. 

“You have to start a couple months before because with clay you have to fire it and then glaze it and fire it again,” she said. “It was more work than I realized it would be.”

Artists were given a one-word prompt for each day and would then post pictures of the handmade ceramic plates on Instagram. Plates were judged and voted on every day, with one to two winners recognized per prompt. Both Palmer and Smith won a few of the challenges: Smith won for the “forest” prompt and Palmer won for the “botanical” prompt.

“It was hard because you had to take the lameness of the word and get inspiration from it,” Stuart said.

He refers to the moments he looks at his artwork and gets no inspiration as “analysis paralysis.” 

The official opening day of the exhibit was Nov.7. The exhibit will be open all of November. 

“We were originally going to have a little exhibition at WSU,” Palmer said, “but then Kassie who works at Dahmen barn said, ‘Hey you know there’s this slot that came open in November,’ and the owner asked if we wanted to put our plates in there.” 

Stuart and Smith said they have ties to Dahmen Barn, so making the decision to feature their art there was a no-brainer. They both teach ceramic classes at the barn for teens and adults.

Smith said the ceramic community on the Palouse is pretty close. If  she needs a resource or has a question, there is always a name or number she can contact.

Palmer said her work in ceramics started as a side hobby and that her larger works of art are paper cut outs made with metal rods and other materials. Palmer currently has a large paper cut out art piece presented at the Portland International Airport.

Palmer hopes she can eventually open a ceramic plate shop once she retires. By the end of this project, she felt the challenge helped her get an idea of who is interested in ceramic plates and future possibilities as far as design.

“I got maybe 100 more followers which is great for me because I don’t have a lot,” she said. 

Like Palmer, Smith also found the challenge was a good networking opportunity and helped connect her with fellow potters around the world.  

Stuart participated in two art challenges in October, one being the ceramic plate challenge and the other dubbed Inktober, where artists draw or sketch items based on a prompt. 

“It was a good challenge because it was so challenging,” Stuart said about juggling two projects, “it allowed me to explore new techniques.” 

All artists said that although it was a challenging and long process, they would do the 30 plate challenge again next year. 

Most of the plates created by the artists will be present at the exhibit, except for the few that were damaged or previously sold. Available plates are open for purchase at the Dahmen Barn for the rest of November. 

“It’s a nice time for the holidays if people are interested in buying unique handmade pieces that’s also functional,” Palmer said.