Tool "blind throwing," in the footprints of Peter Voulkos and Richard Shaw at UC Berkeley, circa 2014.They may be more than cups. Judging the value and meaning, in an art historical context, is part of someone else’s job description. An art hero of mine said we need division of labor in the arts. All of this writing, after the first sentence, makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I was asked for 500 words.  

I started making cups after serving for five-plus years in the Marine Corps. I took advantage of the GI Bill and found Art at a community college. I did not make cups when I joined the Marines. 

With the 1st Marine Division I traveled to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (to take part in the ’91 Gulf War), and as an Embassy Guard, I spent fifteen months in Rome and fifteen months in Paris. In the time since I was discharged from the Marines, my cups have taken me across the United States and to China, Vietnam (near where my father fought), France (Vent des Forêts), and Germany. I work on the UC Berkeley campus, where I am exposed to people, art, music, and ideas from around the world. As I and the cups travel, the world seems smaller, and no place is unaffected by war.  

The times I have witnessed the cups being something more than just a cup are the times when someone shared a story about the images on the cup. Someone who had firsthand experience with that insignia or image and shared a story with someone they love. The power of the cups comes from the people they resonate with.  

Someone once said something like, “Art is the possibility of love between strangers.” I like the idea of being able to share a beverage and a story. Working in ceramics, I have the possibility of sharing a beverage and a story with someone 500,000 to 1,000,000 years from now. From my hand to your hand to some point thousands of years in the future. 

Ehren Tool. One of Thousands, 2017. Stoneware and underglaze.In Art, there seems to be an obsession with making something new and original. Issues of war and violence aren’t new. Peace is the only adequate war memorial. I cannot express how sad it is for me to watch people suffering in war, people suffering after they come home, so many years after I came home.  

To be judged, especially by someone you love, is difficult. To be demonized or idolized, for something you did or didn’t do, in a context you can never explain, is difficult. It often feels easier just to keep things to yourself. I hope some of the cups can be places for people to have conversations about unspeakable things. 

I don’t believe anything I do will change the world, but nothing in the world releases me from my obligation to try. Making cups is a pretty small, impotent, and insignificant gesture in the face of all that is going on. Cups are what I have. I hope the cups can be of some service.