Rhonda Willers is a visual artist, educator, writer, researcher, mother, and author of the book, Terra Sigillata: Contemporary Techniques, which was published by The American Ceramics Society in February 2019.
Focusing on fragility, space, and subtle strength, Willers works with repetitive forms and markings to elicit thoughts of memories, spiritual spaces, and rituals. Her diverse art practice includes ceramics, mixed media, drawing, painting, and time-based installations. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include: Persistence of Mingei: Influence Through Four Generations of Ceramic Artists at The Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis), March 2019 - March 2021 and Crowns: Crossing into Motherhood, a group exhibition featuring art made in response to the experience of mothering, at the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio, November 2019 - March 2020.
Willers earned her BFA in ceramics and photography from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls in 2003 and continued with post-baccalaureate studies at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth. In 2007, she completed her MFA at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln with an emphasis in ceramics and minor studies in drawing and sculpture. Her work and writing has appeared in Ceramics Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated, and Ceramics Technical.
Willers serves as a Special Advisor to the Board of Directors for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, also known as NCECA. She previously served in an executive leadership position as Steward of the Board from 2018-2020. From 2009-2012 she served as a Director at Large on the NCECA board. In these roles, she assists in the planning of the annual NCECA conference in addition to serving on committees that support the organization's mission and vision of advancing creation, teaching, and learning through clay with purpose and fostering environments of equity, diversity, access, and inclusion.
From 2007-2018, Willers was a Lecturer in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls teaching a broad range of courses: beginning and advanced level ceramics, creative arts entrepreneurship, design foundations, and general art appreciation (class size of 120-150). Her special projects included overseeing student participation in the American Craft Council St. Paul Show for three years, assisting the visiting artist program known as the Wyman Visiting Professor in Art, securing and/or supporting several prominent artists and scholars, as well as co-coordinating or coordinating gallery exhibitions and the annual outdoor art exhibition.
Currently, Willers is a full-time studio artist and writer at her home in rural Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and children.
The Also True Biography....
Most mornings I wake up sandwiched between at least two of my three children…snuggling, warm little breaths on my face…sounds idyllic (like the epitome of motherhood), right?
…until I try to move and realize they have basically straight-jacketed me under the bedding…claustrophobia almost sets in, but then I shimmy my way out to freedom…the studio or the kitchen for coffee, at the very least.
Through a series of fortunate whim-led decisions I arrived at a career in clay by way of horticulture and education, relatable to many. I “succumbed” to peer pressure from a college friend and enrolled in ceramics with Randy Johnston at UW-River Falls. A feeling best described as magic was felt and I wholeheartedly dived into a life of art making with a focus on clay.
Like most young vagabond artists, I traveled and moved for various opportunities, each place and experience entrenching me more within the field of ceramics. I had the Trifecta Come to Jesus graduate school experience at UNL with Gail Kendall (God), Pete Pinnell (Jesus) and Eddie Dominguez (Holy Spirit) rounding out my formal education.
A return to the Upper Mid-West, my place of origin, landed in fluke emergency hire at UW-River Falls to teach the course that had forever altered my life, undergraduate general education art appreciation (which I taught with 120-150 students in one class). After over a decade of teaching at UW-River Falls, my students affectionately called me leather hard: firm, but malleable.
With a renewed focus on my studio work and writing, I hope to start most mornings with a warm cup of coffee on my deck, listening to the birds and other woodland creatures that inhabit our shared environment...that is...of course...if I can find my way out of that child-created straight-jacket....alas...coffee dreams...