Kvapil earned a bachelor of arts degree in literature, with honors, from the University of the Pacific in 1973. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Japan to study tea ceremony ware at Takatori Seizan Pottery in Kyshu, achieving the rank of Journeyman Potter in 1975. Kvapil returned to the United States to earn a master of arts in ceramics in 1979 and a master of fine arts in plastic arts in 1981 from San Jose State University.
Kvapil joined the faculty at Cal State Long Beach in 1986 as an assistant professor of art. He rose through the ranks. He chaired the art department and eventually became director of the School of Art in 2011. Between those posts, he has been associate dean and interim dean of the College of Arts.
He also has held several national positions, including conference director for the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts. He has been a board member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, as well as a member of the association’s executive committee. He is currently a member of the association’s commission on accreditation.
While pursuing his academic career, Kvapil has continued to create art. His work in ceramics shows deep meditation on the relations of Asian and American art — on the delicate shapes and intimate scale of the tea ceremony, as well as the richly textured and organic shapes of mid-century American expressionism. He has exhibited widely. His most recent show was last fall at the Couturier Gallery. Entitled “Jay Kvapil — New Works,” the exhibition showcased the depth of his exploration into the boundaries of wheel-thrown forms and intriguing crater glazes.
His work has been included in numerous exhibitions, including “American Porcelain, New Dimension in an Ancient Art” at the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan; “On and Off the Wall: Shaped and Colored” at the Oakland Museum; and a one-person exhibition at the Downey Museum of Art. His work also can be found in the public collections of the Long Beach Museum of Art and the San Jose Museum of Art.