Sustainable Ceramics: A Climate Crisis Reminder (a.k.a. Sustainable Efforts for a Ceramics Continuum)

Robert Harrison with Hungarian Arch I believe that most of us are responsible for what we do, and make objects of worth that will be valued by future generations. Such objects will remind our grandchildren that the ceramists of the early twenty-first century were caring, careful, and future-thinking artists wishing to sustain the environment and lifestyle in a manner that is answerable and accountable for the future.

– Janet Mansfield, 2012

From her forward in Sustainable Ceramics

Seven years ago I committed to authoring Sustainable Ceramics: A Practical Approach. I am a maker not a writer. Nor am I an expert on sustainability, but I am concerned about the global climate crisis, and about lending my voice to help stimulate conversation on sustainability. My chosen medium for creativity is ceramics. I am gratified to say since immersing myself in the field professionally, nearly 45 years ago, I continue to be consumed and thrilled with the challenges and discoveries associated with working with clay. The challenge of writing a book focused on sustainability in ceramics was a worthwhile endeavor, one I continue to be proud of. 

This article is meant to be a reminder for ceramic practitioners to employ sustainability in your studio practice and daily living.

Earth-based materials, when subjected to fire, go through an alchemic transformation that many refer to as magic. Based on that premise, contemporary ceramic artists, in all the myriad ways of working with clay (potters, sculptors, installation artists, etc.), are occasionally referred to as alchemists or magicians. Wouldn’t it be amazing while wearing the ceramic artists’ magician hats we could turn the global climate crisis around and start the healing process? Forever the optimist, I say we can! 

We can, if we all make an effort, in both our studio practices and our daily lives. Sustainable Ceramics covers many issues ceramic artists face – from choices of firing fuels and alternative firing technologies to energy-saving methods of working, from ways to save water to processing waste materials generated from one’s studio practice, to name a few.