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In This Issue - Allyship

Feb 1, 2024

This is going to be an uncomfortable conversation.

It seems that humans are wired to seek certainty; to identify stable ground and stake a claim; to be unified and in accord. Although we are hard-wired to seek these values, I have yet to experience someone riding in with the “right answer" and rescuing us from conflict.

By contrast, judicious conflict  – decent and opposing perspectives –  seems to be the catalyst for healthy collaborative conflict. In this month's issue, we explore uncertainty, allyship, and social justice.

Creative wisdom is the distant yet illuminating beam blazing in the sociopolitical fog that obstructs my path. I know that I will stumble, fall, and feel the pang of hopelessness. But this is being human – knowing that creative wisdom is my destination; knowing that I will be wrong; and knowing that I will have a choice: to stop, to continue on the same path, or to search for my beacon of creative wisdom. 

Our editor emerita Mary Barringer, reflected on our founder by stating: “Gerry Williams worked in ever-widening rings to promote humanist values and a generous vision of the ways that pottery could be a bridge between people and cultures.” This too is the modus operandi that weaves itself within my pursuits to investigate how we as potters respond to crises and how we as ceramists show our allyship.

In preparation for this month's issue, I was asked on numerous occasions, “What is your agenda?” My knee-jerk reaction is that I didn’t have one. I am simply curious and in pursuit of creative wisdom, but in reflecting on my conversations and digging into my social consciousness, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t have an agenda.

What I’m trying to do in this month's issue is create an implicit cycle of conversations on social injustice and secure a protected space for hard conversations that affect our ceramic community.

There is a part of me that feels ceramics exists autonomously, independent of political and societal considerations – art that is “purified” or purely aesthetic. This is, of course, a modernist anecdote and one that was planted by Clement Greenburg in my reading of his collected essays, Art and Culture (1961). As a product of 90s grunge and punk culture, I equally have an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology and the political and economic machine that has infiltrated every aspect of humanity. What does one do – what do I do – when straddling both sides of a philosophical divide – one of purity and idealism, and one of skepticism and rage against the machine? 

For our readers who want pottery to live independently of politics, I want you to know that I see you, and our next issue is on the “Aesthetics of Joy,” but for the readers who are angered by the current events of the Israel-Hamas war and who are curious about the ceramics community’s responses to social injustice, this issue is for you; this issue is for everyone.

This magazine has always stood for more than pottery. Studio Potter is a publication that understands both perspectives exist – aesthetic and political – and we are committed to thoughtful conversations for both. However, with thoughtful conversations come hard conversations. I have asked our contributors this month to share their hard and vulnerable perspectives. With this risk our authors are taking, I am asking our readers to share the same grace and patience that it took our authors to be vulnerable. As you read, imagine a path shrouded in fog. The path you thought you knew is not as clear as it once was, and you are in a moment of vulnerability. Each article presented in this month's issue is a distant beacon that will guide you through the fog – that will inform your journey. 

While the current crisis of the Israel-Hamas war is the impetus for this issue, there is a bigger conversation on allyship – one that was waged in the era of colonization, slavery, or, pick a war, any war. How do we show up and be present beyond performative allyship? How do we stabilize cultural norms so we aren't swung from one side of a pendulum to the other when crises force us into choosing sides – into “othering” one another?

You are likely wondering what “side” Studio Potter’s editor is condemning or championing. My rage is against the machine and the knowledge that I am inevitably a cog within; I condemn institutionalized inequity, and I am against the artificial divisions of humankind. I condemn the systematic failures that allow crises to victimize innocent people – to victimize potters and artists. As the mother of a child who lives internationally and regularly attends international festivals, I condemn Hamas and the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, 2023. To be clear, I vigorously condemn all terrorism against Israel, all terrorism against Jewish people. I am a racial and ethnic byproduct of the Spanish colonization of Indigenous peoples, then the Western colonization of my foremothers (cycle upon cycle), and for that, I condemn land grabbing, human displacement, and the cultural destruction that is born from colonization and war. To be clear, I condemn Israel's sweeping aggression against Hamas which has blindly destroyed Palestinian history, Palestinian culture, and Palestinian people. The post-modernist in me condemns it all – everything. 

I champion risk-takers, bridge-builders, and those willing to have hard yet thoughtful conversations. I champion those who, when faced with insurmountable problems, with no solutions or positive ideas, start where they are with small action. I champion uncertainty. I champion autonomy.

I champion talking between two opposing ideologies. When talking stops, this silence becomes fertile ground for violence. I want to talk; I want to chip away, intentionally and methodically, at hate. I welcome you to the conversation and to read three articles from varying perspectives. Amal Tamari presents "Potters for Palestine: The Need for Solidarity," Tzipporah Schvarcz pens "A Letter for Peace," and in our free monthly article Yinka Orafidiya reflects on "'Activism' in the Age of Social Media."

Upon reading this month's issue, I am not asking you to stand up and make a declaration of who is who and who is othered. I am asking for the platform to have hard conversations that are handled with compassion and perseverance; to be socially responsive, not reactive. Each of our authors this month calls for us to authentically show up for one another amidst the horrific – demoralizing – statistics of current crises that freeze our capacity to act. 

From the position of an editor, I can find the strength to do at least one thing: to start where I am – imperfect as it may be – which is to secure a protected space for hard conversations that affect our ceramic community. This will not be happy reading, my friends, but it will be necessary for our pursuit of creative wisdom.

Within this month of heavy conversations, we don't want to overlook the significance of Black History Month; Black history is an expansive legacy that is so much more than a month. We encourage you to read an article from our archives on the artist Leroy Johnson, which was originally published in our June 2000, Vol. 28 No. 2., “Woodfiring” issue – free to all readers – and browse our "Black History – Selections from the Archive."



Randi O'Brien, editor

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