In the Loop
Student Stories : Dec 15, 2016

Ceramics MFA candidate awarded fellowship for fresco research

By Casey Wooster

UF Ceramics MFA candidate Stephanie Wilhelm has been awarded the NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship. Competing with other Ceramics Masters candidates from around the country, Wilhelm proposed a research project on the application of Buon Fresco to ceramic forms, a technique essential to the visual representation of concepts within her MFA thesis.

“Clay and fresco both have long and distinguished histories, and since beginning my graduate studies here at UF, I have been combining my interests in painting and in ceramics,” explained Wilhelm. “Clay is tangible. It provides me the opportunity to mold, stretch, and transform. Buon Fresco is tedious.”

Buon Fresco is a fresco painting technique in which alkaline-resistant pigments, ground in water, are applied to wet plaster. Wilhelm recounts that when starting a Buon Fresco piece, she only has about a two-hour window of time before it can no longer absorb the pigment. Therefore, the technique requires concentration and confidence in mark making.

“I love this marriage of emotional ideas with sensuous, tactile materials; and I enjoy the challenges in their resistance and their fragility,” expressed Wilhelm.

Her award will fund travel to the Ortolan Studio of Traditional Fresco Painting in Venice, Italy. There Wilhelm will receive necessary instruction concentrated on traditional fresco painting, as well as the complexity of fresco and how she can apply this to her ceramics. While in Italy, Wilhelm intends to study historical frescos and ceramics, all of which influence her own ceramics work.

"I conceptualize my ceramics as a three-dimensional canvas," continued Wilhelm. "Through the confluence of clay and fresco, I explore the dichotomy between softness and hardness, vulnerability and permanence"

Wilhelm will be presented the NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship during the next annual conference for the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA).

To follow Wilhelm’s research and thesis development, visit her website and blog at