We’re excited about the upcoming education terms in our newly renovated spaces!
We couldn’t have made it this far without our amazing instructors; they are the heart of our education program, so let’s Get to Know Your A2AC Instructors!
This series will dive into who the A2AC instructors are, what they do outside of the A2AC, their favorite teaching moments, fun facts, and more.
Meet our first instructor in this series, Jon Van Eck!
Click on the Questions to see Jon’s answers!
“Art, for me, is life! It is what I need to survive, and the Ann Arbor Art Center is a refuge in a stressful world needing creativity and joy”
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jon Van Eck. I am an artist, a potter, an author, a teacher, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. In 1982, I took my first ceramics class at the old Ann Arbor YMCA on Fifth and Williams St. I knew after that first class that someday I wanted to be a professional potter. By 1983, I started taking classes at the Ann Arbor Potters Guild, and in 1987 was accepted as an Associate Member of the Guild. In 1989, I met my future wife; by 1990, my time at the Guild was over.
Between 1990 and 2000, my life was busy with five kids, work, and school. In 1999, I set up a home studio and created Van Eck Pottery & Tile Works. In 2000, I received a BFA in Ceramics from Eastern Michigan University and immediately jumped into my MFA program at the same institution. As a graduate teaching assistant, I taught the “Ceramics for Non-Majors” course for two semesters.
From 2009-2018, I took a break from pottery to focus on painting and writing a novel. In 2011, one of my pieces was accepted into the “Cabinet of Curiosity Show” at Columbia University. In 2013, another of my paintings was accepted into a juried show called “Art for God’s Sake” in Troy, MI. I continued to paint until 2015, when the Ann Arbor Potters Guild asked me if I would be willing to teach a class on making extruded ceramic dies.
Preparing for, and teaching this class, brought back my thrill and love for ceramics. I went on to teach another lesson at the Guild in 2016. In June 2018, I began teaching at the Ann Arbor Art Center, and that same year my book, “The Odyssey of the Slingshot Man,” was published. In 2019, I exhibited at the Ann Arbor State Street Area Art Fair, and in September of 2021, I began teaching at the Villiage Potters Guild in Plymouth, MI.
Outside of teaching, my wife and I enjoy our grandchild and renovating our vintage 1967 Barth travel trailer. We are hoping to restore it to its original glory. Also, we are building a Vardo Caravan on a cargo trailer. We enjoy alternative building methods and have been involved in straw bale and thatch roofing projects throughout Michigan and Indiana. It is our goal to build a container home very soon.
What does your creative practice look like?
I am primarily a ceramic artist. However, I am also a sculptor, a painter, and a woodworker. When I create, I sketch my idea quickly and immediately proceed with the material, clay, or paint. I work better when I organically create rather than draft out the entire idea or process. My own studio space is also an integral part of my creative process.
What is next for your artistic career?
Moving forward as an artist, I love teaching and will continue to do so as long as possible. I am very interested in creating an area nearby where alternative kilns (Wood, Salt, Soda Ash, Raku, Etc.) can be constructed and offered to students to expand their ceramic horizons. I will also continue to paint, sculpt, and do woodworking, and perhaps I will create a piece of art someday that will propel me into artistic stardom…a boy can dream.
What are your favorite teaching moments?
In May of 2018, I was asked by the Ceramics Studio Manager at the time If I would be interested in teaching an upcoming summer class. I started teaching at the A2AC in June 2018. Love teaching!! Super grateful to be allowed to teach the semester classes and the occasional date night, classes.
I was most proud of the Japanese Lantern Project, which I introduced to my advanced 102 students. This was a project that I had never attempted myself but had always wanted to. It was a fun project because we were all learning and sharing ideas as we progressed, and each student’s joy and positive feedback were rewarding.
What I have discovered as a teacher is how much I learn and grow from my interactions with my students and the happiness that comes from sharing the creative process with others. When I started teaching, I went through a phase of panic where I thought, “What if they see I am a fraud!!” as I faced my impostor syndrome and started sharing what I knew, I realized I had something of value to share.
Art, for me, is life! It is what I need to survive, and the Ann Arbor Art Center is a refuge in a stressful world needing creativity and joy.
What would you say to someone interested in art but nervous about taking a class?
If the pandemic taught us anything, life is precious and short, and we need joy in our lives. Creation is an act of joy!! Take a class and create something…anything…Enjoy!