Ceramics – many of us, I'd dare say all of us who read this publication, are collectors of this funky material. I'm sure there are art collectors out there who have plenty of money to purchase any piece they desire, but, in my humble opinion, the pieces purchased are not as cherished as those given to someone as a gift. Objects linked to gift-giving confirm and validate our connection with others, which means that they're a reflection of both the giver and the receiver. To that end, one of the most cherished qualities related to ceramics is the memories and stories that come with this material. I'm not sure if this happens with any other medium in the same way.

I have bought pieces from the makers I admire and respect, but the ceramic objects I continually visit – have conversations with, use, and reflect with – are the ones I acquired as gifts or in trade.

It's the personal connections within these pieces that mean so much to me. I'm sure their maker doesn't even know how profoundly these objects bring me back to a particular moment in time.

I have now been in the game for a little bit, and my heroes and mentors are moving on to the next adventure. Which, let's face it, death effing sucks.

But, the stories! The stories that come with their pieces are what I think truly keeps their spirits alive, not just the objects. The object is a reflection of a specific time and person, but the ability of a ceramic piece to make someone smile, cry, remember a "hold my beer and watch this" moment, laugh, tell a long story, or just stop and enjoy a few minutes of the day is why I keep playing with this "glorified dirt."

Going into academia was not what I expected to do when I first touched this weird material. But after taking a ceramics class as a "blow-off course" when I was trying to get a "real degree," I was hooked, and it changed my life – I got to play with mud, fire, and wearing a tie was actually considered a safety hazard!

With my new indoctrination into ceramics came my first National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference. I was that bright-eyed, energetic, ignorant punk kid going to my first NCECA. I was new to this weird material, and the exposure to new slides, magazines, posters with amazing images, and ideas was a major wake-up call for a newbie. I had no idea who some of the people I met at the conference were, but I got to hang out with them because my instructor knew them. At that first NCECA, unbeknownst to me, I was sitting at a table drinking beer with some dudes named Don Reitz, Peter Volkous, and Paul Soldner. Shortly after that evening and returning from the conference, it was a "HOLY SHIT!" moment. "THAT WAS WHO?!?!?"