Mitchell Spain, M.F.A.

 Mitchell Spain Des Moines Iowa Ceramic Artist

Growing up on the family farm in rural Iowa, Mitchell Spain spent much of his childhood rummaging through "junk" left in old barns. These rusty objects became a connection to older, slower times - times before technology overload and fast paced living. 

Fascinated by his findings and his emotional connection to them, he draws inspiration in his functional and sculptural work utilizing a trompe l'oeil technique to mask clay in a rustic facade thereby "recycling" and "reusing" those found objects. 

He received his BFA in Ceramics in 2012 from the University of Iowa and his MFA at the University of Kansas in 2015. Mitchell has exhibited in many national and international exhibitions, including the Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics, and has appeared multiple times in Ceramics Monthly. An article he authored on his research of ceramic threading was published in the November 2014 issue of Ceramics: TECHNICAL magazine and he presented on the subject at the 2017 National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts Conference in Portland, OR.

He currently lives in Des Moines, IA with his wife and son where he works as a full-time studio artist on the farmland that started it all. 


Our ability as humans to consciously review our faults to prevent future mistakes is invaluable. So often, however, these former follies are disregarded. With my work, I explore my personal connection with the physical and social world in which I exist, utilizing imagery from the past to form an understanding of the present.
Using trompe l’oeil techniques in ceramics, I mask porcelain in a façade of rusty vessels, choosing to mimic forms that often hold strong stigmas in terms of their environmental impact. In turn, this creates a satirical element in that the contents are known to be harmful to humans and the environment, yet are containers created for function, specifically ingestion. Through this exploration of material and imagery I navigate the relationship of humanity and earth; most notably the uncertainty of the future if we continue our paths of destruction through careless consumption of resources and reckless regard for the environment.

There is the moral of all human tales:
‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory-when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption-barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but ONE page.
-Lord Byron


Follow Mitchell on Instagram