In This Issue

Oct 1, 2022


In September, Studio Potter celebrated its 50th anniversary. As we embark into the next half-century, I see this as a fifty-year mission to be a publication of wisdom – a mission where Studio Potter specializes in purposeful and artistic philosophy. This fifty-year history buzzes within my editorial pursuits as we release the October issue, and given that this is the first full month to reflect on our anniversary, I felt it was most timely to provide our readership with articles that address themes within ceramic history.

While I am partial to art history, the truth is, it’s an odd jumble of contradictions.

No sooner than I find comfort on the stable grounds of archaeological dating, textbooks, and resource material, I realize ceramics history isn’t the neat package it conveys itself to be. It is, for me, about what is missing.

I am an advocate of and devoted to historical texts, but not to the extent that I would pull the wool over my eyes in complacency, assuming that the historical archives are complete. There are still gaps to be filled. There are still underrepresented histories – let us not forget the intentional destruction and altered histories that must be reevaluated and protected. The point is, there is still purposeful and philosophical work to be done as it relates to our collective ceramic history.

Carolyn Herrera-Perez is an emerging art historian who shines a light on an underrepresented female curator, Marinobel Smith. Smith began her curatorial career in the 1920s and curated what is considered to be "the largest exhibition of [ceramics] at the time, the first Pan-American survey of contemporary ceramics, and it remains one of the few US exhibitions that tried to characterize the varied approaches of Latin American ceramists." This month, Carolyn’s article, "Marinobel Smith and the Pan-American Ceramic National," is our FREE article. I encourage you to share her work with your colleagues, students, peers, and friends because this is precisely the purposeful – diversity, equity, and inclusion – gap-filling that we need to see more of.

The second article that Studio Potter presents is "Fourteen Cords, Thirteen Cones, and All That Jazz," by Katherine Fischer. While I would not categorize this article as history, per se, it does come from "a moment in time, at a remote place in the middle of the rural Midwest USA, where three potters from far apart streams segued into one river. Before the current era of divisiveness, before the great illness that plagued the planet, beyond neighbor fighting neighbor, and before the world began to split apart, these potters, Joy Brown, Ching-Yuan Chang, and Ken Bichell, brought gifts of clay, fire, and spirit."

Our third article is from Andrew L. Maske, a Professor of Museum Studies at Wayne State University and Director of the Gordon L. Grosscup Museum of Anthropology, as well as a specialist in Asian ceramics. Andrew conveys the life and work of "Ōtagaki Rengetsu: Poet, Potter, Nun." The nun-potter Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) is widely considered to be one of Japan’s most remarkable women. Though she is well regarded and written about for her poetry, her pottery has gone underrepresented in the history of ceramics. 

The fourth article that I would like to draw your attention to "questions the imposition of Western principles of art and aesthetics on the traditional arts of Africa" while also drawing distinctions between traditional and contemporary art of African societies. "African Art: Traditional and Contemporary Pottery," by Dele Jegede, is from our June 1988, Volume 16, Number 2 archive. This article is an invaluable document from our Studio Potter history, but moreover, it opens us up to the collection and creativity of the past we may otherwise forget or miss. For more publicly available articles about Black artists see our featured Black History - Selections from the Archives

Modern onlookers, myself included, see vital voids in historical text, categorizations, and collections. We makers have an influential role to play in creating an inclusive, expanded, and self-critical presentation of the history of ceramics. Yes, there are modern and living artists that are underserved and underrepresented who deserve our attention here and now, but it’s my hope that in continuing the process of historical gap-filling we are developing roots that strengthen the collective growth of our field. 

Help me find the writers and thinkers willing to accept this challenge; there is more work to be done.

Thank you for reading, and I leave you with the historic yet relatable words of a "poet who never imagined she would become a potter."

Taking my amateur

Rough little things

To sell –

How forlorn they look

In the marketplace!

                                                                                    ­– Ōtagaki Rengetsu



Randi O'Brien, editor

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