photograph of Jaden Estes Carlson

That’s right! After a little hiatus, we are bringing back the Student Spotlight! And there’s no one better to kick off this belated return than Jaden Estes Carlson. Jaden is a soon-to-be graduated senior within the Art Education program with an emphasis in Ceramics. This woman is a machine! Her senior exhibition is currently dominating the Walker Gallery with an incredibly colorful flair—a fitting visual simile for her prismatic personality. Check out some of her work and read about Jaden’s experience here at UNK below!



What made you choose UNK’s Art and Design department?

I initially came to UNK due to the school size. I started out undecided but found my place and passion for ceramics in the art department. I never really thought I had it in me to be an Art Teacher because I was so unlike any of my previous teachers and instructors, but after learning under Professor Wetherell I realized the obvious: there is more than one approach to teaching and I could still be a successful art educator without fitting into the cookie cutter roll that I thought was necessary to be successful.


What kind of work do you enjoy doing the most and/or what themes does your work explore?

I really enjoy making hand-built ceramic forms. I use a Terra Cotta clay that is really nice for building fast and loose. The work I’m making now is an act of rebellion against the have-to’s and need-to’s of life. When creating this work, I was making for myself. Not for school. Not for applications. Not to make my family proud. Just for me and the feelings this unchained creativity gave me. These pieces are meant to be fun and eccentric.  In a way they are a reconnection to my childhood, a time when I would draw a picture and say “I want to be an artist.” Making them helped me remember why I started in the first place—because I love the power of art and the way creating something from nothing makes me feel. 


Tell us a little bit about your experience within the Department of Art and Design.

I’ve definitely had a good experience within the Department of Art and Design. I’ve always felt really comfortable asking the professors for help and advice and for the most part they are all really willing to offer guidance even if you aren’t currently in one of their classes. I have had an awesome experience in [the Ceramics program]. Professor Wetherell has really guided and pushed me as an artist during my time here.


That’s awesome! Professor Wetherell is great and, like other amazing professors within the Art and Design department, works closely with her students. She’s also an incredibly strong advocate for students in general.

She has been the best professors and mentor I could have ever asked for. She has guided me and helped me grow as a person and as an artist for the last four years. I honestly know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without her guidance and mentorship.


What about Kearney? What are some of your favorite things about going to UNK and/or living in Kearney?

My favorite things about going to UNK and living in Kearney are my friends. I’ve formed some really awesome relationships during my time here in Kearney and continue to do so. The school and city are small enough that meeting new people isn’t overwhelming and there are always events around campus and the community that aid to that as well. My ultimate favorite thing in Kearney will forever be the ceramics studio though. I’ve grown so much as an artist and a person in that room and it will always be special to me and my college experience.


You’re about ready to graduate soon! What are your plans post-graduation?

I’d really like to get accepted into an MFA program for ceramics. As my time at UNK is coming to an end, I am realizing that I’m not ready to be done learning and pushing myself artistically. More than anything I really just want to be a better artist and whether or not I get into a program I will still try to achieve that goal, it will probably be a forever thing though.


We have a lot of prospective students that visit this site. What advice do you have for them?

For students that may be interested in the UNK Art and Design department, I would suggest talking to students who aren’t recruiters and will give you their honest and raw opinions. Ask students about the instructors in your program and see if their teaching style sounds like a good fit for you.