After he arrived in early January, the five ceramics experts on staff taught him basic techniques, and from there he experimented. “The staff seems more excited about surprises than tradition,” Mr. Belliveau said. “They say ‘yes’ to pretty much everything, which I love.”
Trial and error is a driving force behind the nonprofit institution, commonly called EKWC, for Europees Keramisch Werkcentrum. It was founded in 1969 to provide a group of ceramists with kiln facilities, and has since gained an international reputation.
“If the artist’s proposed project doesn’t seem doable, then we’re interested,” said Ranti Tjan, the center director, whose black wingtips perpetually carry a layer of clay dust. “Our mission is to not only promote ceramics, but to constantly be researching the process.
“Everything we do is open source — that’s the agreement with the artist,” he said, explaining that techniques and formulas, such as glaze recipes, are available for the asking.
The center draws as many as 300 applicants a year for its approximately 60 slots, a number that grew from 45 in 2015 when it moved to a former leather factory here, from a small facility in the provincial capital ‘s-Hertogenbosch (commonly known as Den Bosch), about 14 miles away. The cost to participants, including room and board, is about 20,000 euros ($21,160) — usually paid through grants from foundations, museums and galleries as well as crowdfunding. They also spend about €2,000 on materials and kiln-firing costs.
The almost 54,000 square feet of space is divided into working and living areas, including 16 studios of about 430 square feet each, private dormlike rooms with baths, and a homey shared kitchen, dining and lounge area. The largest room houses…