Tennessee Mountain Home

Rebecca Buglio | MFA 16 Ceramics

“Growing up, my dream job was to be a veterinarian,” recent graduate Rebecca Buglio MFA 16 CR recalls. “But that plan was completely derailed when I took a clay class during my sophomore year in college.”

Buglio fell head over heels for the medium and after graduating from Berry College in Georgia, went on to earn an MFA in Ceramics at RISD. She’s now working as program and studios manager at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN, just outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The venerable 100+-year-old organization offers workshops and classes for people of all skill levels in everything from drawing to woodworking to glass working.

Buglio's work is inspired by the fungi and plants she encounters in the Smoky Mountains.

Soon after Buglio arrived at Arrowmont in November 2016, massive wildfires raged through Tennessee, taking 14 lives and destroying more than 16,000 acres of woodlands. Though the Arrowmont campus suffered less damage than elsewhere, her colleagues and neighbors showed a level of selflessness and concern that made a huge impact on her.

“My résumé would still have been unimpressive if I hadn’t volunteered, networked with other departments and learned what else is out there besides clay.”

“The staff came together and immediately started trying to help the community, even before we were up and running ourselves,” Buglio recalls. “Community is super important to me.”

At RISD Buglio found it gratifying to engage with the creative community both within the Ceramics department and across campus. She encourages current students to branch out and make as many connections as possible outside of their major departments.

“The people in the Career Center helped me immensely when I was at RISD,” Buglio says, “alerting me to opportunities, providing feedback on my résumé and helping me prepare for job interviews. But my résumé would still have been unimpressive if I hadn’t volunteered, networked with other departments and learned what else is out there besides clay.”

A detail from Buglio’s ambitious thesis project at RISD.

Buglio learned about the Arrowmont opportunity from Assistant Professor of Ceramics David Katz, who encouraged her to apply for the position. She says that the work ethic she developed at RISD helps her handle the myriad duties of her job and stay on top of her own creative practice as well.

“My first few months here were challenging,” she notes. “Those long nights in the studio when I was at RISD taught me how to cope with steep learning curves, and I learned to balance class, work and ‘me’ time, which is something every artist has to figure out.”

Buglio now helps to plan community classes at Arrowmont and relishes the opportunity to work with local artists. One of her favorite courses offered this winter is Encaustic Collage, a short class for adults that touches on sewing, printing, drawing and incorporating found objects into mixed media works.

In her own practice, Buglio continues to turn to nature for inspiration, incorporating representations of the amazing fungi and plants she finds in the Smoky Mountains into her work. Since her full-time job limits her own time in the studio, she has been creating smaller objects these days and remembering to take the time, as she puts it, to “clear my head and relax.”

Simone Solondz