Although the Internet is now a common vehicle for discovering, displaying, and selling pots, it was not that long ago that such a disembodied medium seemed incapable of adequately representing ceramics. In Iowa City, a gallery that grew out of an architecture practice was a pioneer in the digital presentation of ceramics, and AKAR's website remains one of the most vibrant and extensive places to see pottery online. SP editor emerita Mary Barringer spoke recently with owners Jigna and Sanjay Jani about pots, how they came to Iowa City, and the web as a showcase for pottery. The following is edited from a conversation that took place on April 5, 2014.
Jigna Jani: I came to the States in 1990 to go to university in California to get my masters in architecture. Sanjay had just finished at the University of Michigan and was looking for a job.
Sanjay Jani: At our school in India, we grew up with pots. The architecture school we went to had an art program under the same roof. But we went to school from 7:00 to 12:00, and the art school students came from 12:00 to 6:00. So there was not a whole lot of interaction between art and architecture… though I must be the weird one who always saw that, you know, art and architecture are the same thing. Architecture is functional art, and so is pottery. They’re both trying to define function in the voids of the form.
The first time I ever formally took a ceramics class was at the University of Michigan. We had two—what do you call?—electives we were supposed to take, outside of architecture. Most of the people took urban planning, but I was dumb enough to do ceramics and life drawing. [laughs] It makes so much sense, right? It was a fifteen-day crash course, two credits, and it was never about the technical side of the pots. It was about exploring ideas—the creative part of the pots. We didn’t even do glazing. It was my first literal “getting dirty with pots,” and I loved every minute of it. That’s when I saw Matt Metz for the first time, too. Matt was our studio lab [tech]. He used to fire the pots....