Tea, Comics, Sea Shanties, and Other Consistent Threads

Every pot made tells a story, but maybe not always in overt and obvious ways. When you hold a handmade object and run your hands over it, you feel the various inflections made by the artist’s hands – tracing the same lines they did, finding the shapes of their hands in the curves and edges. Through touch you learn a little about the person who made the form. Through touch a genuine human connection is created. Nothing convinced me more of this than my time in Greece at The Skopelos Foundation for the Arts residency this past spring. 

Visiting the museums in Athens, seeing pots made by the ancient Greeks solidified my belief in the powerful history of touch, even when I could only trace the lines of their touch with my eyes. In each vessel the artist’s hand is evident – pigment that wasn’t quite thick enough and left behind streaks in the black designs, carved lines that went beyond their intended endings, imperfect circles, and uneven eyes. The desire to reach through the glass and pick up a pot by the handle, placing my fingers in the same places people throughout history have, was palpable – unfortunately that is frowned upon. I was left to imagine what it would be like to feel a connection to another human being across thousands of years. It’s easy to imagine that the lives of ancient potters were not so different from ours: lots of late nights in the studio finishing up commissions, troubleshooting glaze imperfections, pots cracking while drying, and unloading failed pots from a kiln – same problems, different time. We have all had days where the clay won’t cooperate, the kiln misfires, or the glaze doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, often just before a deadline or when you’re working on an important commission. To look at work made in ancient Greece and recognize a familiar struggle is profound. It brings the past closer – it becomes tangible.