Exhibit features Abington student works from Bucks County museum collaboration

Sunflower tile

The new exhibit at the Penn State Abington art gallery features tiles and mosaics created by students during a collaborative course at the Moravian Pottery and TileWorks in Bucks County.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — A new exhibition in the Penn State Abington art gallery showcases pieces created by students during courses taught by faculty in collaboration with professional artisans at the Moravian Pottery and TileWorks in Doylestown, Bucks County.  

Students explored the history and production of tile making and, by experimenting with traditional tools and equipment, they created their own tiles and mosaics. Their experience was enhanced through storytelling, lectures by the curator, and the Henry Mercer Legacy Artist program. The TileWorks produces handmade tiles and mosaics in the style of Henry Mercer, the acclaimed archaeologist and ceramicist and a leader of the American arts and crafts movement. 

“The students had access to all the staff, who worked with them and taught them these incredible techniques. It is an amazingly rich space, and it’s so beautiful to work there,” said Yvonne Love, associate professor of art

Love and Chris Bonner, associate teaching professor of art, co-taught the courses, which came to fruition thanks to relationships the duo formed in the art community years ago. Bonner was a master mold maker at the TileWorks for more than a decade before he began teaching at Abington, and a colleague from that period, Katia McGuirk, became executive director of the site a few years ago.  

“Katia contacted me because she was interested in forming a connection with Penn State Abington, and the class evolved from there. Students tap into her expertise, and she shares her influences and stories with them. She has a wealth of knowledge about tile making and Henry Mercer,” Bonner said. 

Love’s connection to McGuirk also extends back almost a quarter century, through artists’ residencies and an independent art school Love once owned. 

“Katia has always been a tile maker, and she was heavily influenced by Henry Mercer and his techniques. She also facilitates lectures for the students with Vance Koehler, the curator of the TileWorks,” she said. 

The TileWorks-based class is open to art majors and minors as well general education students at all levels. About 10 to 12 students enroll in the process-oriented course each spring. 

“Henry Mercer wanted his tiles and mosaics to tell a story, and the students are prompted to relate their own stories through their pieces. At the end of the course, there is a nice mix of very successful works made by students regardless of their skill levels,” Bonner said. 

The success of the students in this immersive experience extends beyond the exhibit in the campus art gallery. Three students received Student Engagement Grants from the University to fund summer internships, another student was hired part time to glaze tiles, and two other students honed their professional skills volunteering at the national Tile Fest. 
The course also strengthened the existing connection with the working history museum, which is located about 30 minutes north of Abington, by building a partnership that will offer continued engagement for students and the entire campus community.  

In The Gallery

Tiles & Mosaics: Student Works from the Collaborative Course at TileWorks of Bucks County 

Through Oct. 13, 2023, in the Penn State Abington Art Gallery 

Click here for more information about the exhibit

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education to its diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers bachelor’s degrees in 25 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.