Working full time as a potter is a dream for a lot of people, and a reality for only some. It’s not an easy career path, even if it is a rewarding and creative one. Working artists in general were on my mind when I traveled to the Republic of Korea last week to attend the opening for the Gyeonggi International Ceramics Biennale (GICB). I was a member of the biennale’s International Committee, and in addition to the advisory work, and seeing the finalized exhibitions, I took part in a ceramics-focused tour. This gave me the opportunity to meet a few working potters in different parts of the country. We visited potters as they fired their wood kilns in Oegosan Onggi Village. We also had the chance to watch Heongyu Kim, who has made a living as a potter in Gyeongju for over 30 years, demonstrate how he uses traditional Onggi tools and techniques in his studio to make a variety of forms using earthenware clay. During our tour of Yido Ceramics in Yeoju, we met some of the many potters who worked in the small dinnerware factory and showroom. The six artists who are a part of this issue’s working potters focus write about how they have combined their studio know-how with business and marketing skills (learned from mentors or on the job) and personal strengths.
In a way, each issue of Ceramics Monthly is about recognition, calling out artists for their achievements and ability, looking at the work and techniques, tools, and research that influence our field today. This issue focuses in on recognizing the achievements and skills of a narrower group within the field, that of our annual group of emerging artists. Choosing the artists is an immensely difficult but gratifying task. After all of the submissions are opened and processed, we bring them into a conference room in mail bins for the first round of selections. Each editor grabs a few bins, and sorts through the files, looking at images, and selecting submissions to consider further. We pass the bins around the table so that all submissions are seen and considered for the first round by everyone. As the pile of selected artists’ folders in the middle of the table grows, so does my curiosity and anticipation.
–Jessica Knapp, editor.
We all have clay in common. We find it at different times, sometimes early on, sometimes as a second career, and sometimes as our retirement gig. I have found that artists whose work most intrigues me often have very focused interests outside of the clay world, and sometimes outside of the world of visual art all together, whether it’s birdwatching, botany, machines, gourmet cooking, physics, or the science of nostalgia.
At one end of the spectrum, design is a process that is part of what we all do in the studio when planning to make new work. We think up ideas, define the concepts that are important, sketch pieces (in our heads, out of clay on paper, on a computer) that fit our chosen criteria, then refine the forms. During this process, in addition to considering form, we consider use, context, and audience, as well as the right tools (whether familiar or new) for the job.
Through my work at Ceramics Monthly, I also have the privilege of talking to and corresponding with a number of artists who have built significant legacies in the field of studio ceramics. We started covering some of these artists in a deliberate way in our March 2014 issue, and have included several articles on masters in the field in subsequent issues over the past year. In this issue we continue that focus as we talk to Robert Briscoe about life as a potter in our Spotlight department, and feature the work of Cary Esser, Cathi Jefferson, and Linda Sikora. Each of these artists have impressive careers as studio artists, teachers, and mentors, and share practical studio tips, recipes, and techniques with us.
Installing ceramic vessels or sculptures in an exhibition space can be tricky. It’s something many of us deal with when showing work, so the editorial staff decided to focus this issue on a few different artists who create installations and larger compositions with functional work.
The editorial staff asked these five artists a series of questions that covered both the practicalities of designing and making sets meant for use, and the ideas that drive each artist to create these kinds of pieces. The artists also share details about their studio process along with slip and glaze recipes.-Jessica Knapp, editor.
I think that for most ceramic artists, some of this collected work reminds us of the maker, who is also a friend, mentor, or someone we’re inspired by (a.k.a. a ceramic crush). Some pieces are great for dinner parties, while others are our daily companions. As makers, I think we are so lucky to have this cross-over experience, of both understanding how something is created, and understanding the important role that handmade objects play. They make experiences and our environment special, they connect us to others, make us think, and inspire us in the studio.
–Jessica Knapp, editor.
The September issue always feels a little bit like the first day of a new school year for me as we get back into the rhythm of the monthly magazine schedule. This year I feel that way even more so, as I step into my new role as editor. Like Sherman, my experience in our field is as both a maker as well as an editor. It’s a privilege to come to work and research different artists, exhibitions, events, and technical topics in my chosen field. It’s also a great environment because I work with an editorial and production team made up of people who also have backgrounds in ceramics. –Jessica Knapp, editor.