Ceramic Supply Chicago Welcomes Dan Merkel
Customers stopping by Ceramic Supply Chicago recently may have noticed a new face and a helping hand in the shop. Chicago native Dan Merkel joined the staff this past July and has been busy making connections with local schools and artists in addition to learning the details of the retail business.
A graduate of Utah State University, Merkel holds a B.F.A. in Ceramics. His post-baccalaureate studies took him to China and Korea. Like many students, he began in China’s “porcelain capital,” Jingdezhen, studying ancient techniques. He moved on to Icheon, Korea, where he discovered an affinity for the Koreans’ cultural appreciation for ceramic arts in everyday use. “I was more interested in the Korean design,” he explains. There is a cleanness to it that takes from the Chinese but points toward the Japanese aesthetic.” In his study of the history of the art in Asia, he says, “I gravitated to the ‘middle-ground’ of Korean pottery, especially its use in daily rituals.”
Home on a vacation from Asia, Merkel was offered a position as Ceramic Lab Coordinator at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora, IL, west of Chicago, where he had begun his college education before transferring to Utah State. “It was a good opportunity,” he says, “and I stayed for eight years.” It is with this experience that he comes to Ceramic Supply Chicago. He enjoys being back in the Chicagoland area, especially having access to Northern Illinois' great fishing opportunities in Northern Illinois' rivers and streams. He is shown here with a fresh water drum:
Merkel’s extensive knowledge of kiln technology is an asset for the schools served by CSC. He has spent hours over the last months visiting local schools to inspect their kilns and equipment, a free service offered by CSC. “I just recently was at a local middle school where the art teacher was uncomfortable with the studio’s two kilns,” he says. “I inspected them and got them working right and made sure she knew how to operate them.”
In addition to his technical abilities, Merkel is a working artist who has a studio in his home in Aurora, where he lives with his wife. “I don’t get as much time as I’d like to do my own work, but I’m eager to do demonstrations and workshops in the schools,” he says. With high school and middle school art teachers having to cover the gamut of art instruction, many are grateful to have an expert in ceramics provide expertise and introductory instruction for both the teacher and students. He recently attended a local Illinois educators conference where he guided teachers at the wheel. He says, “I’m going to deliver their finished bowls and do some demos while I’m at the schools.” He is working with retired educator Joe Hernandez to put together end-of-semester spring raku firing events for local high schools. Ceramic Supply Chicago looks forward to offering more of these services with Merkel on-board.
Ceramic Supply Chicago’s customer base includes local artists and studios as well as schools. Under Merkel’s direction the Second Saturday workshops at CSC are transitioning to the “Local Artist Series.” It begins with Oak Park potter Gabe Tetrev on December 8. Merkel plans to present a local artist once a month at the CSC facility, for lectures, demonstrations, and workshops on Saturdays. He sees CSC as a place where artists can come together to learn, share ideas, and pick of some clay and supplies at the same time. Stop by to say hello – he’ll be glad to give you a hand!