Graduate Alumna Focus | Lillian Ding

Lillian Ding, MFA

Lillian Ding graduated from Hood College with an MFA in Ceramic Arts in September 2020. She received First Prize in 2018 and the President’s Choice Award in 2019 at Hood’s Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition Awards Ceremony.

Lillian Ding, MFA

Graduation Year

2020

Program

  • Ceramic Arts (MFA)
  • Ceramic Arts (M.A.)
  • Ceramic Arts (Certificate)

Department

  • Art & Archaeology

"I think a MFA degree is an important credential in seeking employment, especially as a qualification for teaching ceramics.  As an academically recognized terminal degree, earning a MFA in ceramic arts shows my record of professionalism in this field."

Please tell us about your background. 

I was born and grew up in New Jersey.  My passion of arts is in clay-sculpting which I began studying in high school. I graduated from The Art Institute of Boston (AIB) in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpting, Ceramics and Painting.

While living in Cambridge, I was also a student member at the Ceramics Studio at Harvard University where I built a series of figure sculptures titled “Inner Peace” as my BFA thesis project.  My interest in narrative sculpting took root during the making of that series of sculptures.  

The ultimate goal of my art is to develop narrative ceramic sculptures that tell stories and convey the thoughts of human spirits and strength, particularly with emotive expressions.

My heart longs for opportunities to listen to others who are willing to share their stories and opinions about a social behavior with me. While all of these have touched me in meaningful ways, some especially poignant stories have become topics of my art creations.

After departing Boston in the Fall of 2013, I joined The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I continued to develop more narrative sculptures with some being accepted to juried shows at varied galleries and a county museum.  At the same time, I taught ceramics classes at local art centers and children summer camps.

In the fall of 2017, I decided to pursue my MFA degree in Ceramics at Hood College.  Besides studying toward my degree, I was and continuously am, a freelance artist receiving commissions for individual ceramic art development.
 

Why did you choose Hood Graduate School and your program of study in particular?

In the Summer of 2017, when I was about to return to Massachusetts to pursue my MFA, destiny provided me with an opportunity to meet with Ms. Joyce Michaud, our previous ceramics program director at Hood.

Joyce convinced me to come to Hood Graduate School’s MFA program rather than return to Cambridge for my studies.  I was impressed with the wide variety of subjects in Hood’s ceramics program as shown in the course catalog.

I also really liked the city of Frederick.  Compared with the metropolis where I lived for the previous eight years, this small corner of western Maryland is much more peaceful.

The weather here is nice, the crime rate is low, and housing and living expense are more affordable. People in the Hood community are so friendly and it is only an hour’s drive to D.C., home of some of the nation's most prominent art museums.

 All of these factors made Hood an ideal environment in which to study and continue my art creation.

At Hood’s Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition Awards Ceremony, you received First Prize in 2018 and the President’s Choice Award in 2019. How has earning your hood graduate degree and receiving these awards furthered your career?

I think a MFA degree is an important credential in seeking employment, especially as a qualification for teaching ceramics.

As an academically recognized terminal degree, earning a MFA in ceramic arts shows my record of professionalism in this field.

I am honored to have received the First Prize and President’s Choice Awards as well, as these designations are further confirmation of my professional qualifications.

What have you enjoyed about Hood College? Do you have a favorite memory?

Perhaps what I have enjoyed most are the team activities outside campus such as field trips to art museums and local artist studios as class assignments.

Hood's participation in the American Craft Council show in Baltimore, and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference held in Pittsburgh were other top highlights of my experience.

I also enjoyed many movie nights in Hood’s ceramic studio in Tatem Hall that grad students gathered at on Friday nights for good food, a movie, and fond time socializing.

Tell us about your thesis, “Good Will and Ill Will”.

My MFA thesis project implements age progressive sculpting processes covering not only the muscle anatomy beneath the face surface, but also the bone anatomy respective to bone growth and aging beneath the muscle.

This basis more comprehensively and consistently illustrates my conceptual narrative: the lifetime story of two sisters' varied reactions to their unusual birthmarks. The age progressive sculpting process originated by this thesis has increased my ability to keep the appearances of a single sculpted individual recognizable over multiple sculptures which reflect the passage of time.

From a technical perspective, it is a research of integrating facial muscle anatomy and facial bone anatomy into my ceramic sculpting process.

Thematically, it is a narrative of different qualities of life resulted from different attitudes towards misfortune, as described by Charles Swindoll's quote, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.”
 

Is there any other information, outside interests, or interesting facts that you would like to add?

Currently, our school galleries are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a virtual alternative, my MFA thesis project is exhibited online. All are invited to view my work and any feedback is very much appreciated.

Inspired by Lillian's journey and ready to #GOFURTHER in your studies and career path? Learn about our graduate programs, including the MFA in Ceramic Arts, by clicking here.