Ceramics Thanksgiving

By Sam Allen


The art department is celebrating Thanksgiving the same way they’ve been for the past two decades, by cooking turkeys in the kilns.

“My morning class gets to learn how to clean turkeys,” ceramic teacher James Brashear said.


Ceramics professor Jim Brashear prepares another turkey, which was baked in a kiln while student Ian Wilkinson takes out homemade bread during the annual Thanksgiving gathering at the ceramics department. Photo courtesy of JR Ancheta

The turkeys are cleaned and stuffed on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving by Brashear’s students.

The turkeys are stuffed with garlic and fruit, wrapped with aluminum foil, paper and a layer of clay and then placed in the kiln.

“It’s kinda like pressure cooking a turkey instead of baking it,” Brashear said, adding that it locks all the moisture in and the meat just falls off the bone.

Brashear remembers thinking in 1992 that the art department should make turkeys on Thanksgiving. “Alaska is big, and expensive to travel,” so he wanted to do something for

students that stayed on campus during the holiday break.

The kilns didn’t have temperature gauges then, so they didn’t know how hot they were running. “We’d throw paper in there, and if it caught on fire, well that meant it was at least 400 degrees,” Brashear said. Because of this, there were some overcooked turkeys in the beginning.

Students from intermediate and advanced ceramics classes have a food services assignment. They make a ceramic dish for serving the food they bring. Assignments are based on function as well as narrative.

“For example, someone made a gravy boat, that was literally a boat,” Brashear said.

The Thanksgiving turkeys, apple cider, paper plates and cups are paid for by the student ceramic arts guild. About 120 students attend Thanksgiving dinner in the ceramics lab.

Brashear, walking through the ceramics lab said, “This is our potato guy. He grows organic potatoes. Every year his bowl [that he makes for the dinner] gets bigger and bigger.”

“I’m not bringing in potatoes this year. I’m making casserole,” potato grower Chuck Travis said.

Mark Wilnans, 53, Food and Beverage Director for Princess Northern Region, is bringing deviled eggs and made a platter with egg shaped holes to serve the food. Wilnans has been taking ceramics classes on and off for more than 25 years. He takes a ceramics course every four or five years. “It rejuvenates my clay juices,” he said.

Wendy Connelley, a non-degree seeking student, made a pitcher and a large bowl for stuffing. She joked with Brashear about bringing in “kid-friendly” Kahlua and crème.

The Thanksgiving ceramics students make are sold at an annual pottery sale. This year the sale is Dec. 12.

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