Engineer and artist combines passions in new exhibit

Ceramics graduate, Bill Jamison, reconciles his two passions of engineering and art through his art exhibition, Bill's Thesis.

Bill Jamison has two passions: ceramics and engineering. 

A ceramics graduate student, Jamison has used his ceramic art show to bring harmony to his passions, engineering and art, that at one time in his life presented a dichotomy. 

"Bill’s Thesis" is the title for Jamison's graduate thesis — one he has been actively working on for three semesters. The project was presented at Herberger’s art gallery throughout the week of March 27.

Jamison has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from University of Alaska Anchorage, and worked as a civil engineer for seven years before deciding to pursue a ceramics degree.

“Six years ago I had a bit of an existential crisis trying to figure out what was worth pursuing," Jamison said. "I worked as an engineer, but I became burnt out and disillusioned.” 

This led Jamison to pursue ceramics — he was admitted into ASU’s three year graduate art program where he has been experimenting with ceramics and incorporating engineering elements since admission.

Pursuing the fine arts has left Jamison struggling to find a balance between the worlds of engineering and art. 

“I’m a spontaneous, creative engineer, but conservative artist," Jamison said. "When I hang out with my engineering friends, I’m the weirder one, but when I’m with my art community, I’m the more straightforward one. It’s been a lot of feeling like I can’t identify with either one.”

The continuing contrast of his interests are reflected in his work. He began the thesis project by driving around Arizona, finding naturally occurring objects like rocks, wood and cement that he could contrast with his ceramics. He then “highlighted the beauty of the natural objects” with pops of color. 

Jamison worked to create a space where others, as well as himself, could feel a balance in their lives. 

“This show has been about reconciling parts of my identity that may sometimes seem opposite, the logical side with the part that is more intuitive and natural,” he said.

He said he believes many individuals fall somewhere in between the polar opposite ends of their passions, so he wanted to create something that reconciled a balance between opposites in order to find harmony.

“We live in a polarizing world right now, politically and even within ourselves," he said. "There’s the part of me that feels like I can be in control, but there’s part of me that sees the chaos and complexity in the world.”

Supporting Jamison in his work to create Bill’s Thesis was his thesis committee, Susan Beiner, Sam Chung, Dan Collins, and Kurt Weiser.

“Bill works on his work physically and conceptually, the committee talks about it, and then he forms his thesis,” said Susan Beiner, an associate professor of art and the head of Jamison’s thesis committee.

The committee met with Jamison four to five times before the opening of his show. The meetings started about a year and a half ago, and the committee guided him throughout the process.

Associate professor of art Sam Chung said he has seen incredible development in Jamison over the course of the thesis project.

“He shed light on the beauty of nature by interacting with pieces and altering them with highly machined metal appendages,” Chung said. 

He also said that the show conveyed an inseparable relationship between man and nature, and demonstrated the negotiation between man made objects and those that are naturally occurring.

He said he was impressed by Jamison’s ability to drop and modify his original vision, citing the artist's decision to leave behind any utilitarian function of the art to leave it be as a sculpture for contemplation.

“He’s a hybrid engineer and artist,” Chung said.

Reach the reporter at or follow @marcela_bandala on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.