Pottery often has a relationship to its environment, from the wild clay potters of North Carolina to regional aesthetics like the ubiquitous Minnesota brown pot. Like most people these days, potters are also concerned with climate change. Here I’m posing twenty questions exploring our shared values with environmentalists on nature, sustainability, utility, and humility that may help you reflect on your daily choices in the ceramics studio. Please take these questions home to your studios, classrooms, and artist communities and consider them deeply, maybe just a couple at a time. My current resolutions are scattered throughout, always evolving.    


Many environmental ethicists argue that nature is over, or at least dramatically different than a romantic notion. If so, what changes in artwork are inspired by nature? For studio potters to say they are inspired by nature is not a unique perspective, but it makes many assumptions about our understanding of nature itself and also the human-made material world. These concepts are worth further examinations to scrutinize how our work is operating in and reflecting on the world around us.  What is nature and what of it is inspiring? What are the values imbued in our conception of nature? What does it mean to recreate something to look natural? Are our materials natural, and then why is it our job to master them? 

Bill McKibben, a writer and environmental activist, argues in The End of Nature that what humans long for in their sense of this word, nature, is space on earth untouched by humans.