I believe I am extraordinarily lucky to be making my living in clay as I eclipse my fiftieth birthday. Being an artist in this country, whether you’re a dancer, writer, composer or visual artist is a chancy proposition. Yet, I wake eager to go to my studio or to see what my students have created. The pleasure I receive from working in my studio and teaching ceramics to others is deeply satisfying.
There are those who think of my work as a hobby, fun filled and frivolous. It is not. It is physically demanding and culturally undervalued. The regular proximity to toxic materials makes it dangerous. Hefting 50 pounds bags of clay is easy when you are 22, but fraught with back injury at age 50. Ceramics as a profession has provided the advertising industry an easy target as a joke job. I believe that this muddy, easily broken, historically ancient material is still relevant in our culture.
I am not a potter. I don’t make useful things though I do live with many carefully selected wonderful pots. Each day begins with the ritual of opening the kitchen cabinet to pick out a handmade mug to drink from. This simple act gives me incredible pleasure. I’m positive that sipping coffee from the right proportioned edge of a gorgeous cup increases the quality of my life each day. I am connected to a real person who made the drinking vessel, allowing me to swim in the pool with all of the other artists who work in clay. In this way, I am reminded of the vast ceramics community working all over the world.
I profoundly enjoy my work. The porcelain I use is creamy white and slightly wet between my hands. It transmits the relative temperature of my studio, cool or warm. My fingers pick up tools similar to what a dentist uses. I can carve large chunks or make delicate changes on the surface of what I am making. Time collapses. I form the clay into a specific shape, the flow of minutes fly by as I concentrate using my fine motor skills. Patience not normally available is sought. I keenly focus on having the clay become what is sketched on paper nearby.
My profession is vast, dirty and hazardous. I make sculptures that are theoretical and abstract, odd to most people in our culture. The border is blurred between what I make and what others create in the contemporary art world. Yet, my allegiance comes back to clay. A colleague recently introduced me at Art Basel in Miami as a sculptor who works in ceramics. I am not. I am a ceramic artist and I am proud of my place in the art world.