MFA Thesis

Wellington B. Gray Gallery


Founded in 1977, the Wellington B. Gray Art Gallery is an integral part of the School of Art and Design’s educational mission.  The Gray Gallery provides educational programming for students and the community through six to eight exhibitions each year and numerous symposia and lectures by visiting artists and curators.  The collections that the Gallery and School of Art and Design maintain includes a significant collection of western and central African art, Baltic ceramics, the Dwight M. Holland collection, a major and on-going donation of contemporary ceramics and a suite of Larry Rivers prints.



April 17 - May 15, 2015
Wellington B. Gray Gallery
Opening Reception, Friday, April 17, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

The Wellington B. Gray Gallery is proud to present the work of five artists graduating from the Master of Fine Arts program in the School of Art and Design at East Carolina University. The exhibiting artists are Gaines Bailey, Steven Hall, Mary Klacza, Kate Speranza and Erin Younge. The exhibit runs from April 17 through May 15, 2015 with an opening reception to honor the artists on Friday, April 17 from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m.

The exhibition includes a wide range of materials and aesthetics with artists representing the studio areas of ceramics and metal design in the School of Art and Design. Gaines Bailey and Erin Younge are MFA candidates from ceramics while Steven Hall, Mary Klacza and Kate Speranza are MFA canidates from metal design.


Gaines BaileyGaines Bailey is a ceramic artist and art educator living in Durham, NC with his wife Laura and two year old daughter Adriana. He is currently a MFA candidate at East Carolina University, set to graduate in May 2015. Gaines graduated from Winthrop in 2009 with a BFA in Ceramics and member of the cross country and track team. Since then he has been selling pottery and teaching classes at community art centers in the Raleigh Durham area. Gaines was the ceramics studio manager at The Crafts Center at North Carolina State University from 2011 until starting graduate school. He was also a founding member of the Roundabout Art Collective gallery in Raleigh in 2011; exhibiting there until 2014. Gaines participates regularly in local and regional exhibitions. His work focuses finding untapped contexts for functional pottery both domestically and commercially.

Artist Statement 

Designing Ceramics for Social Events
My work considers the role of handmade goods in common rituals. I am investigating how hand-crafted ceramics can fit the demands of social events in both functional and decorative capacities. The body of thesis work is made for use in the graduate student exhibition in the Wellington B. Gray Gallery at East Carolina University. This includes all of the serving and diningware for the reception, which is arranged as a serving display throughout the duration of the show. A one-handed plate and cup integrated set, designed to have a free hand at buffet receptions while eating, moving around, and socializing is available to be used by the guests of the event. In addition to the body of work created for the gallery space, process materials used in the creation of the work are also on display. The contextual research for this project includes historical analyses of social servingware, interviews with gallery owners, caterers, and event attendees, as well as real-world testing of the pieces. The work addresses the demands and parameters for events at the venue; investigating how handmade ceramics can solve issues of usability, aesthetic opportunities, and waste management. The subsequent goal for this project is to serve as a model that could be replicated at future public events.


Steven HallSteven Hall, born in 1986, is a metalsmith from Georgia. He received his BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking from the University of Georgia in 2010. After completing his undergraduate degree, he worked as a blacksmith before moving to Greenville, North Carolina in 2012 and beginning his MFA in the Metal Design program at East Carolina University. Steven’s current work focusing on making singing bowls to be used for the Japanese healing technique known as Reiki. This work is all cast bronze and turned wood.

Artist Statement  

For me, art is more than just objects to be looked at- it is the interactions which we have with these objects. For the artist, the art is as much the making as the finished piece; for the viewer, being able to touch and hold the piece makes the art into something more. For this reason, my work focuses on making functional objects which provide the viewer more direct access to the pieces. Soon after I began studying art, I was introduced to forming vessels and this process has held my interest ever since. Vessels, such as bowls, serve as a perfect conduit between the hands of the artist and the viewer, letting them share the interactions of the piece.

Recently I began practicing the Japanese energy healing technique known as Reiki. In Reiki, the intention of the healer is to project energy through the hands to affect beneficial changes in themselves or others. It soon became clear to me that I needed to find a way to join my art with my interest in Reiki. The singing bowl was a clear way to join my two passions. As not just a vessel but also an instrument, the bowl draws the viewer to interact and experience the piece more fully. At the same time, the singing bowl is one of the traditional tools used by many energy healers. It is my hope that as you look at this work you will take a moment to interact with the pieces and play the bowls. As you listen to the sound of the bowls, let the energy carried by their ringing pass into you and become a catalyst for any changes that need to occur for your highest good.


Mary KlaczaMary Klacza is a metalsmith/artist who has been happily hammering since 2006. She will graduate in May 2015 with her MFA in Metal Design from East Carolina University, and holds her BFA in Human Centered Design from Northern Michigan University. Mary has been a guest artist for Bob Ebendorf’s found-object adornment class at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. She currently resides in Greenville, NC.

Artist Statement  

I bring together hammer and anvil with a piece of silver in between- forging sterling silver utensils. By selectively thickening, thinning, widening, and lengthening, I can fabricate a piece of silver into a usable utensil. The precision and passion necessary for forging are addictive to me. What cannot be forged I fabricate with a jeweler’s saw, torch, and files to bring dimension to what was once a flat, plain sheet. The transformations that silver can endure because of its malleability are incredible. The utensils I am making are unusual and overly specific; they are completely functional but realistically absurd because of their intentionally limited usability. In my observations of food trends and eating habits in American culture, food has become more excessive and indulgent. Why haven’t the utensils followed? I think that if the food I am eating is extravagant, the wares to eat it with should be decadent to match. Looking to history for cues, lavish attention was paid to new, celebrated, and exquisite foods during the Victorian era. During this time, specialized utensils were developed for the presentation, serving, and consumption of each and every delicacy. Exquisite bon-bon tongs and ornate serving scoops are what I have translated into donut-specific tongs and devices for dunking such confections into coffee.


Kate SperanzaKate Speranza is an MFA candidate in the School of Art & Design at East Carolina University. She is from Portland, Oregon and received her BFA from Oregon College of Art & Craft. She has worked extensively in metalsmithing, making both small-scale sculpture and jewelry. Her interest in using a variety of media has spurred her to investigate other formats such as painting and book making techniques. She has exhibited regionally in both North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest.

Artist Statement

“Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”—Paul Tillich The concept of choosing to be alone bears a stigma in today’s exceedingly social world. It’s a choice that I believe few value, and those who choose it are often misunderstood in this need. Solitude gives you a chance to escape the chaos of daily life. Furthermore, it’s essential to creativity, and processing thoughts and emotions. In this body of work I have made representations of my own and others’ notions of solitude using paintings, mixed media sculpture, and text. My work demonstrates the importance of solitude and offers viewers respite from chaos and an opportunity to consciously acknowledge a moment of quietude.


Erin YoungeErin Younge is an artist who uses various materials and techniques to build sculptural installations. Her work is about being relocated as a young child to a rural town in the western mountains of North Carolina, in the middle of the bible-belt. Younge translates her Judeo Christian upbringing into an interactive sculptural series. She received her BFA degree, concentrating in sculpture, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to being a recent graduate of the MFA program at East Carolina University, Younge has taught workshops on ceramics at The North Carolina Pottery Center and StarWorks’ FireFest, using the raku method of glaze firing. She was the Curatorial Manager for East Carolina University’s Dwight Holland Educational Ceramics Collection from 2012 to 2015. Her work has been shown regional in eastern North Carolina, and she received a second place award in the Art and Science Exhibition at Arteries Gallery in Naperville, Illinois

Artist Statement 

My research focuses on how rituals can affect the conceptual design of sculptural objects. I used that research to create artwork that explores the connections between the visual culture of religion and art to determine whether rituals are mutually shared. Using my knowledge of Judeo Christianity, my work compares religious visual culture with art practices. The venue for my work focuses on venerating shrines in a domestic setting in relation to a public art museum. A shrine may contain memorabilia and relics about a specific person or event that designates visitors to participate in a certain way. Some of the pieces are interactive to facilitate that participation for others. During my childhood, the concepts of my family’s religious faith were imposed upon me. Researching the biblical teachings for my work allows me to take an active role in my family’s religious exchange. My shrines combine my memories with imagery of Judeo Christian rituals to become active mementos for transforming my mindset. Shrines are revisited as often as necessary; each visit addresses one smaller aspect of spiritual conflict or doubt about religious practices. My pieces prepare me for positive change as I prepare them each day.

The Wellington B. Gray Gallery is located off of 5th and Jarvis Streets on the campus of East Carolina University in the Jenkins Fine Arts Center.  Summer gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. The gallery is closed for all University holidays. Jenkins Fine Arts Center is handicapped accessible. Parking for the reception is available in the lot surrounding Jenkins Fine Arts Center.

For more information, please contact Tom Braswell, Interim Gallery Director, at (252) 328-6336.