Sam Horsnell, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville senior engineering physics major from Oregon, is using a creative outlet to enhance his education.
Horsnell’s collection of pottery is being showcased in the university’s Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery until Tuesday, March 3, in a collection titled “Kiln Rats.”
Horsnell, a 2016 Oregon High School alum who is set to graduate from Platteville in May, said having a chance to display his work has been a new and wonderful experience.
“This is my first show I’ve ever been in,” he said in a UW-Platteville news release. “This is the first time someone has asked me to be in a show and celebrate my works of art.”
Horsnell started his sophomore year after taking a ceramics course to fulfill a general education requirement. For his pottery, he took on the task of using a wood kiln for the majority of the pieces.
He said using a wood kiln is a labor-intensive process, where every seven minutes wood needs to be placed in the kiln, and it can be fraught with difficulties.
“You are more likely to have a failing pot firing with wood fire kilns than any other type of firing,” Horsnell said. “It’s because of this dramatic process; these flames wrapping over the pots creating heat differentials across the pots which creates tension.”
He calls the process alluring, which can also be distracting.
“If you’re not intentional on how you do things, you have failure,” he said. “The attention to detail and the relationship you have with your work is something I find really beautiful and very powerful.”
Horsnell said he enjoys creating pottery in a Japanese style due to the strong forms.
“I want people to wonder how these things were made and why they look how they do; I think that’s very powerful,” he said. “The initial question allows for a series of other questions that really empowers viewers to keep asking questions.”
And not surprisingly for the physics major, math is also an important component.
“You can’t do art without math and science. You can’t do math and science without creativity,” Horsnell said. “Through ceramics, I learned a lot about the chemistry involved, the thermodynamic process, as well as many of the physical components of what’s going on.
“It goes back to when I’m thinking of solutions in my engineering world, I’m kind of thinking outside of the box.”