Althoff lands position as resident artist

Madeleine Althoff just finished her senior thesis art show and found out she’s landed a position as a resident artist with the Ceramics Center in Cedar Rapids.

Althoff works on a piece for her Senior Show in her studio on the 4th floor of McWethy Hall.
Althoff works on a piece for her Senior Show in her studio on the 4th floor of McWethy Hall.

Now she’s looking forward to the future and reflecting on the past four years at Cornell College. On May 8, she’ll graduate with a B.A. in studio art, B.S.S. in studio art in practice, and a minor in art history.

Finding her way to the Hilltop came pretty naturally for this Stillwater, Minnesota, native who has been doing pottery since high school. 

“One of my mentors graduated from Cornell back in the 70s,” Althoff said. “He did ceramics here and was like, you should apply to Cornell. Then the lacrosse program reached out to me before I even applied and they were like you should come to play for us. It just worked out really well. Then, I applied with my portfolio instead of test scores, which was really good for me.”

Althoff focused much of her senior year on her art show, which was on display in the heart of the Peter Paul Luce Gallery from April 10 to April 22. A large table with a shiny blue cloth sat in the middle of the room with nine place settings and four large bowls in the middle. She crafted each piece of pottery using slip casting–carefully pouring liquid clay into a plaster mold. She enjoys making pieces that people will actually use, and that’s how it all started.

“From there, I thought maybe I should make it a self-portrait,” Althoff said. “My dinner table has evolved into this heritage self-portrait. Each place setting is a country that I’m from. So there’s a place setting for Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Sweden, England, Scotland, Netherlands, and Ireland.”

She researched her family history online and talked with her grandparents, learning more and more about herself and her family along the way. She decided to use patterns from textiles from each country, which she altered to fit her project. Althoff created stencils from those patterns that she pressed into the pottery. 

A ceramic cup and plate with floral decorations
Art by Madeleine Althoff

“I use an Italian carving process called sgraffito, and I carved away those stencils to get the design,” Althoff said. “It takes a couple of tries. Some plates I’ve remade maybe four or five times because I didn’t get the stencil on just right or I changed my mind about how I wanted it to look.”

Alhoff points to the carving technique she uses on one of her plates
Althoff shows the carving technique she uses, called sgraffito.

Althoff took advantage of One Course At A Time, completing independent study blocks where she could spend her days focused on creating her works of art. 

“The block plan is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Althoff said. 

She spent her time between the lacrosse field as a member of the women’s lacrosse team and creating pottery in her studio space, which is a space each senior studio art major receives in McWethy Hall. Althoff also said she has received lots of support from the faculty throughout the entire process. 

“Professor Biondo-Gemmell has helped expand the techniques and processes that I use while creating my works as well as helping me create connections with others within the art world,” Althoff said. 

In fact, Biondo-Gemmell introduced Althoff to the folks at the Ceramics Center in Cedar Rapids, where she’ll start her professional career once she has her diploma in hand. Soon, she’ll be spending her days creating new pieces just 20 minutes from campus.