Art vendors from all over come to Double Decker Arts Festival every year, but many artists who set up booths for the two-day event are Oxonians or University of Mississippi students. In fact, the Mud Daubers – a group of graduate and advanced undergraduate student ceramicists at the university – have participated in the festival every year for the past 13 years.
The Mud Daubers and the UM ceramics program are led by Matt Long, associate professor of art and graduate coordinator for the Department of Art and Art History. Long received his MFA in ceramics from Ohio University in 1997 and has been at the university since 2005. The Mud Daubers, however, had already been active for many years before Long was hired.
“The Mud Daubers became an official student organization 11 years ago,” Long said. “However, the student organization was started with my predecessor, professor Ron Dale, sometime in the ‘80s.”
The group changes often, but there are currently 16 members. Using the university’s ceramics facilities – which include 20 electric wheels, a glaze lab and a kiln pad, among other things – these students are collectively able to produce anywhere between 100 and 500 ceramic pieces per semester.
“(The extensive production is) all in an effort to make stronger, well-crafted and more complex work,” Long said. “Many of these pieces make it to Double Decker, but only the highest quality pieces are chosen.”
These pieces range from functional to sculptural, using wheel-thrown and hand-building methods. Mud Daubers experiment with a variety of techniques and aesthetics to produce a wide array of objects that vary drastically in style.
Double Decker presents artists, especially student artists like the Mud Daubers, with the opportunity to connect with the community and build real-life skills that they may not be able to develop in class.
“The experience is great,” Long said. “While the university provides a great education, it does not provide a real-life education in the reality of students working in ceramics.”
The university’s wealth of resources and experienced faculty give students what they need to develop technical artistic ability and to experiment creatively to develop their own styles and ideas, but the curriculum does not show student artists what it is like to be a professional artist after school.
“This is not only a great opportunity to experience these things – packing work, pricing work, inventory, set up, working as a team, customer service, sales, taxes – but provides the students with opportunities to give back to the community of art, ceramics and Oxford,” Long said.
Long’s only goals for the Mud Daubers for Double Decker are that the students develop these skills and put their best foot forward.
As for the proceeds, individual students keep 60 percent, and the remainder goes into the Mud Daubers’ collective fund to support students attending the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts and to bring renowned artists to campus.
The Mud Daubers will be located at booths 79 and 80 on Van Buren Avenue from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. this Saturday.