Master’s Program

In support of individual artistic development, the two-year Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics offers a contemporary, urban context for rigorous investigation and dialogue. 


Graduate study—and the inherent invitation to take risks and reinvent personal processes and thinking—occurs in the privacy of individual studio spaces, through independent research and experimentation in consultation with faculty advisors, as well as through inspiring interaction with peers. Many MFA candidates also choose to enrich and broaden their practice through interdisciplinary work.

Graduate students engage in independent studio work in ceramics, both on campus and off—through field research and participation in conferences in New York, Boston, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. Through active participation in studio critiques and seminars, graduate students investigate the social, historical, philosophical and technical foundations of ceramics, critical theory and contemporary issues. They learn to articulate their ideas through written and verbal communication as well as visual presentation.

View the curriculum

Learning outcomes

Graduates of the two-year MFA program are prepared to:

  • analyze fields of study in ceramics from different philosophical and historical perspectives.
  • perfect clay construction, material experimentation and effects of firing.
  • identify qualities in works of art and be able to reconstitute these qualities through making.
  • understand the medium as a vehicle for expression and cultural advancement.
  • distinguish roles of form and function in an object.
  • collaborate through dialogue and making.
  • articulate and develop one's own visual language and manner of making.
  • demonstrate installation skills and aesthetic sensibility for exhibiting work.
  • evaluate one's own motivations for a chosen direction of work.
  • situate one's work in both historical and contemporary contexts and base development of a chosen form on a thorough understanding of history.
  • manage and maintain a professional studio practice.

Inspiring community

Undergraduate and graduate students exchange ideas and work together in this small, tightknit department, alongside faculty who work closely with students to support their practice.

MFA candidates tend to be professionally committed, materially articulate and intellectually curious, committed to pursuing areas of practice and research in pottery, sculpture, installation, design, architectural ceramics, decoration, community-engaged work, collaboration and other diverse ceramic processes and ideas. Each year the department also invites a series of visiting artists to campus to speak about their professional practices and offer constructive critical feedback.

Learning environment

Ceramics studios and facilities support the production of advanced work through state-of-the-art computerized Blaauw gas car and electric kilns; a mobile raku kiln; a computer lab and software for remote kiln control and monitoring, glaze calculation and database manipulation; wheels; a slab roller; extruders; a ram press; a clay mixing room; and newly refurbished plaster and glaze labs.

Thesis project

In the final semester, degree candidates focus on creating a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All MFA candidates produce a written thesis, present an independent thesis exhibition and participate in an annual graduate thesis exhibition of work by students graduating from RISD's advanced degree programs.