Natania Hume, Bottle, 2015. Cone 5 stoneware, oxidation. 5 x 9 in. All photos by artist.As a maker of functional ceramics, I often wonder if my practice is sustainable. Climate change has not only affected how I perceive my work, but it has also shifted the cultural values of many makers; many of us are now aware of our “footprint” and what impact our actions have on the environment. My tendency toward self-reflection and my efforts to live conscientiously often lead me to ask questions without easy answers. How far should I go to try to make my process green? Is it possible to be one hundred percent green and still be financially viable? How does my desire to make and sell my work balance with my desire to do the right thing? How much of what I do as a maker is ethical? How useful are these questions? Asking these and similar questions is integral to my creative process and also important to all makers as we consider our place in contemporary culture and envision our roles in a future society.

Being aware of the way my actions have an impact on our environment and making efforts to use processes that are as sustainable as possible has affected my studio practice in several ways. Yet there are factors I have yet to address and for which no appealing solution is immediately apparent.

The biggest change I’ve made recently is switching to electricity derived from the wind and the sun, which is supplied by my electric company. My kiln is electric, so firing my work (and using an electric wheel) independently of fossil fuels has made a difference in how I feel about this aspect of the process. For example, I don’t feel guilty anymore about using more electricity than my neighbors, and I don’t hesitate to do things such as preheat work in my kiln to dry it out. In the past, I might have felt obliged to wait several extra days, even if it meant putting me behind schedule. I still have my clay and glaze materials delivered from a pottery supply company that is more than an hour's drive away (and the delivery truck definitely didn’t look battery-powered!). I have not investigated where my glaze chemicals are mined and under what conditions, although I do try to use materials that I know to be least hazardous to my health and to the environment as waste in a landfill or sewer. I am sure there are plenty of fossil fuels involved in transporting those as well.

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