As you load up the spoon, you dive for a pleasing combination of flavors and textures, building anticipation for the imagined mouthful. It is not until you start to lift the spoon that you remember this spoonful is destined not for your mouth but for the mouth of the person you are sharing food with. Your attention shifts to her face, and you wonder how she will experience the bite you so carefully arranged on the spoon. You check in with her eyes (Is she ready?), and lift your spoon to her mouth to carefully deposit your bite. Then it is your turn. Your dining partner arranges a spoonful for you and lifts it toward you. You have a flash of anxiety (Will the spoon hit my teeth?) before summoning the courage to open your mouth to take the offering. There is a crossing of boundaries here, an opening not only of your mouth but also of your personal space. Designing and making ceramics that people use to feed each other is a way for me to use material form to explore the boundaries of subjectivity by engaging our sense of self-and-other. Feeding someone cultivates empathy, as our attention focuses on that person rather than on our own satiation. We extrapolate from our experience to imagine what the other feels. We read the face and body for clues - the eyes and the mouth, possibly posture and hand gestures - of when and how much to feed. Being fed cultivates physical and psychological vulnerability, as we reveal our hunger and offer access to our inner lives. During mutual feeding, my pottery forms bridge the space between two subjectivities, each one simultaneously reaching and receiving.Feeding event at Alberta College of Art and Design, 2014.

It is not often in our culture that we actually feed another person. Our first association with being fed is formed when we are babies, relying on the body of the mother or caregiver for sustenance. There are circumstances when someone becomes unable to feed herself, because of illness, injury, or age. And there are ritualized instances, as in a wedding ceremony or in the sacrament of the Christian Eucharist (although in contemporary settings the Eucharist is sometimes placed in the hands rather than directly in the mouth). There is a nurturing power to the act of feeding. In a wedding, it indicates a circuit of dependence; the Eucharist is one way that a priest offers parishioners a physical experience connecting them to the sacred.

Read more