Eric Adams received his BFA in Ceramics from Jacksonville University in 2010. He is now in his third year at University of South Carolina working toward his MFA in Studio Art - Ceramics.
Tell us about your work.
My current work focuses on excessive sugar consumption. I exaggerate features of familiar objects associated with eating to criticize the pervasive and unnecessary use of sugar in commercial food products. I most enjoy working with wood, ceramic, cast metal, glass and found objects, but I will use any material that is necessary to convey my ideas.
What were the major reasons you decided to attend an MFA program?
My reasons for deciding to earn an MFA were twofold: First, I was interested in expanding my practice as an artist, specifically the research and conceptual components of my own process. Second, I wanted the opportunity to explore teaching in an academic setting. Before graduate school, I assisted in teaching an art course every semester. I also taught several adult classes at community centers. While I understand the increasingly limited number of academic positions available for artists, teaching has always driven my studio practice and I have a passion for sharing my knowledge with others.
What were the major factors that led you to choose the MFA program you’re currently attending?
I chose my program because of the faculty, facilities and financial aid provided by attending. By choosing a program with a smaller number of graduate students, I am able to teach in multiple subjects including ceramics and three-dimensional design. The faculty from my program best fit the aesthetic and conceptual interests I have.
What is your best piece of advice for applicants when choosing a program?
Visit every program you are interested in before applying and visit again if you are accepted. Even the most honest and well-written description of an MFA program cannot explain to you all of the aspects of what it will be like to attend. Talking with faculty and current students about each prospective program can help fill in the gaps and answer any questions you may have. It will allow you to learn more about how the faculty work together and will work with you, how semester reviews are handled, what funding is available, and an endless list of other information that is not available any other way.
Describe a typical day in your life as an MFA student.
In the morning, I go to my home office and write for 30 minutes to an hour. Some mornings I write and edit papers, grade, or work on grant applications or exhibitions. My first seminar’s weekly schedule rotates meeting between my private studio and the main art building, two miles away. We meet in individual studios and discuss each other’s progress on our work in two-week cycles. I teach a beginning ceramics class after my seminar and use the time in between for smaller tasks, either preparing for my other classes or doing studio work. After teaching, I head to my private studio and work until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, go home and start the process all over. I also work every week for our gallery installing artwork and performing other curatorial functions.
What do you enjoy most about being an MFA student? What is your greatest struggle?
I most enjoy learning and participating in a community of academic and artistic excellence. An ongoing struggle has been time management and setting realistic expectations about what I can accomplish in a single day. I am constantly pulled between the class I teach, courses I attend, thesis committee meetings, reading the growing stack of literature to inform my practice, and having a social and private life. Learning to treat myself with kindness has been especially challenging as stress easily leads into self-doubt and frustration.
What is your best piece of financial advice for potential and/or current MFA students?
Take advantage of every resource and opportunity within the university you attend. My own program has travel grants for attending conferences, research grants for thesis projects, and a large variety of other funding opportunities. Do not be afraid to ask your department for funding, tools, materials, or other assistance that would help you achieve your goals. While you may not always receive funding from your institution, your faculty may be able to suggest other private grants or fellowships. If you need help editing your grant application, see if there is a student writing center on campus.
What are your career plans following grad school? How do you feel your degree has helped facilitate your plans?
I will pursue a tenure-track position in ceramics and three-dimensional foundations after completing my degree. My program has helped me shape and focus my artistic goals into a strong, cohesive direction for my thesis artwork. Additionally, I feel confident in my abilities to conceive, research, and execute any artistic project or professional aspiration I can fathom. Although graduate school can be overwhelming, learning to balance multiple roles has helped me understand how to focus my energy on specific goals and structure my time accordingly.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to assist prospective and current MFA students?
My latest fortune cookie read, ”You’ll accomplish more if you start now.” Use your time wisely and decisively, as you will be finished before you know it.