In This Issue
It is a privilege to introduce myself as the new co-editor of Studio Potter. The role of an editor is an honored responsibility, and I send my sincerest appreciation to my Co-Editor, Jill Foote-Hutton, our Director, Jessica Detweiler, and the board of Studio Potter for the trust they have placed in my ability to edit and lead. Between our collaborative efforts the journal's future is in good hands. With gratitude at the forefront of my mind, I would like to step away from the excitement to reflect on this month's contributing writers. Despite our human reputation of being selfish creatures, Studio Potter's February issue features three stories that reaffirm our potential to reach beyond ourselves.
In Nicolle Hamm's article on "Raw Material Routes," she traces the movement of Minspar from harvest point to customer while investigating the environmental impact. Within any consideration of consumption and sustainability, there is a tension between self and other. What we as consumers need is not sustainable, and what the earth needs is not what we are willing to offer. It would be appropriate to use any of the standard metaphors at this point – the dangers that face our planet are at a boiling point, global warming is a runaway train, the collapse of a single biome will act like a falling domino. Yet amidst this consumer vs. earth dichotomy, I find myself looking to the "outrospective" philosophy of Roman Krznaric. The simplified version of his philosophy is A) have the ability to see and comprehend the needs of the world, and B) know your passions, talents, and strength. Where these two mindsets converge is purposeful work. The heart of Nicolle's article is where these two mindsets converge and is where we find purposeful work. She has a sincere passion for ceramics and the clay community and pairs those strengths with the knowledge that material routes place a heavy burden on the earth we call home. Her article is a call to look beyond ourselves, summon the talents and strength we inherently carry, and transform our practices into purposeful work.
Caught in a COVID-veiled residency, Chase Travaille's article, "Shard Amphora," reflects on the decision to transform his practices of working into a collaborative opportunity where he creates work from both within and outside of himself. Broken blue, teal, and white porcelain scraps amalgamate into Chase's Shard Amphoras. A departure from his large-scale sculptural representations of the American South, which play in the arena of dark humor, Chase's Shard Amphoras have a quiet and historical sensibility. Chase's assemblage aesthetic is in the historical and social meaning of the shards. The desire to find value and purpose in these estranged and discarded relics is, in many ways, about the human condition, about people being caught in situations, about the fate of objects, and the weight of contemporary personal choice. The choices Chase makes are akin to compassion, and his work has found a second life within social media. Artists who are tagged on social media have responded with joy at the new embodiment of their work, and have acknowledged the intrinsic and extrinsic qualities of the Shard Amphoras.
Our third article, by Kayla Noble, is "A Conversation with Jason Briggs," where they consider the context in which Briggs' work exists. As Noble and Briggs discuss the fetishness of his work, Briggs relates an appealing distinction "They're not trying to shock anyone; they are just themselves. They're naked, and they don't know they're naked. They are what they are… other people can figure it out, but they're just sitting there." I must confess that, while on the one hand, this article doesn’t revolve around themes of compassion or global awareness, on the other hand, the selfless empathy he conveyed toward the work moved me. In truth, I have thought of Jason’s work as provocative, but that is the social construct I project onto the piece. Jason’s statement elicited a sense of vulnerability in the objects and allowed me to empathize with their helplessness to be anything but (or is it contentness to strictly be) themselves. Either way, this is a new perspective that I had yet to glean without the conversation between Kayla and Jason. Herein lies the connecting thread between the three articles we present to you. As readers, viewers, and consumers, every moment we reach beyond the urge to project our prejudice, we have grown beyond our former self.
Reaching beyond ourselves is manifested in how we connect to those who are different from us, dislocated from us, and how we purposefully tackle global challenges. We recognize in these stories our strengths, weaknesses, and potential to balance individual and collective growth.
– Randi O'Brien