Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Doug Browe
Well known for his pottery work at the Hoyman Browe Studio in Ukiah, Doug Browe has been affiliated with the Mendocino College (MC) art faculty since he taught ceramics part-time in the 1990's. He most recently worked as the ceramics studio manager for three years, until he was hired as a full-time assistant professor of art (ceramics and sculpture) in 2007.
Originally from Illinois, Browe studied art at Grand Valley State College in Michigan, then completed his bachelor's degree in art, with a focus in ceramic art history, at New College in Sonoma, CA. He explains that he and Jan Hoyman came to Ukiah after talking with a high school friend at a New Year's Eve party in Michigan. The friend turned out to be married to a Ukiah grape grower. When she learned that Browe and Hoyman were planning to move to California, she invited them to stay at her ranch until they got settled. They ended up staying for two years, until they moved to the Hoyman Browe studio in downtown Ukiah.
Browe worked as a professional studio potter for 30 years: first at Earthenware Potters in Western Michigan, then for 27 years at the Hoyman Browe Studio.
In 2001, Browe was asked to set up a ceramics studio for tribal "Karen people" in a Burmese refugee camp, where he taught them to make ceramic water filters. "Eighty percent of childhood mortality under 5 years is attributed to water-borne illnesses that water filters could end. It was righteous work!" says Browe.
In 2004, he was asked to return to Burma, and after that Browe says, "I told Jan (Hoyman) I was leaving the studio. I had to teach! I was called!" Browe explains that he took the studio management job at MC "to see if I could do this education thing." After a year, he enrolled in a master's degree program at Sacramento State University, in preparation for a full-time faculty teaching position. When Gary Medina, the previous MC ceramics professor, retired, Browe was hired for the position he now holds.
Browe says that the ceramics field has changed since he started his career. "Twenty years ago, it was possible to move into the field as a ceramic artist and blaze your way with a small amount of training and an apprentiship. Today the field has become very academic," he says. "It is more and more important for ceramic artists to complete a bachelor's and a master's degree in fine arts to gain the skills and contacts necessary to be successful."
Besides his classes at MC, Browe frequently teaches workshops for both practicing artists and college students, most recently in Portland, Oregon, and Lake Tahoe, California. He also teaches at the Mendocino Art Center.
Browe says his favorite courses to teach are those intended for students who are new to ceramic art. "It thrills me when the spark ignites them and takes hold of them," he says.
Describing his teaching style, Browe explains that "to educate," means to draw out, while "to instruct," means to force in. "I try to draw out my students," he says, "by creating a hunger in the direction of the information they need."
Browe says he enjoys walking, gardening, and bike riding. However his favorite thing to do—even in his free time—is to create art. He is also a collector of both ceramics and textiles.
Browe is the proud father of three "incredible" adult children: Aaron, Allison, and Alanna.