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Susan Kennedy, Waco, Texas

Susan Kennedy's Egg tray, 10 in. (25 cm) in length, stoneware with glaze, soda fired.

Susan Kennedy's Egg tray, 10 in. (25 cm) in length, stoneware with glaze, soda fired.

The egg tray idea actually began as a mancala board. Mancala is a game using seeds or stones, dropped into round divots, five or six on each player’s side, with a larger, collection divot on each end. I had some finished boards around the studio at pot luck time, and immediately recognized how well deviled eggs would nestle into the depressions. I enjoy specificity of function, and the celebratory feel of an elaborate serving piece. And I enjoy eggs.

Since eggs can be quite slippery, and prone to rolling, an egg tray needs depressions, somewhere for the eggs to sink in just a bit. Without this, the function of the egg tray becomes entertainment rather than food containment as the decked-out eggs slide into someone’s dressed up lap.

Of course the possibilities for an egg tray are endless, especially considering the broad range of ways we eat eggs. From the elegant single serve soft-boiled egg cups, to chicken shaped casserole dishes for quiches, and even scrambled egg steamers for the microwave found at festivals, there are always chefs cooking up new, tasty egg treats, and for each, a potter designing a new form to contain and showcase it all.

This article was excerpted from Contemporary Functional Pottery: A Discussion of Handmade Pottery by 11 Working Potters, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily subscribers.

My main challenge is finding balance, both visual and literal. I want the form to have an animated feel, as though it is strolling the room, handing out hors d’oeuvres. The visual elements that make the pot animated often counteract the actual stability, and can interfere with the piece sitting on a flat surface without a (dreaded!) wobble.

I see the pieces I make as characters in an epic narrative, existing on many levels. I want to give the user a vivid backstory, to bring the user up to date with the life of a piece thus far. After the piece leaves my world, it has a life of its own, continuing forward in the narrative, perhaps even finding a new career later in life.

As a child, I loved decorating the Christmas tree with my mom. As she unwrapped various globes of glass and silver, and aged yellow lace, she told me stories about my great grandfathers who worked in glass factories, or the student whose mother knitted the snowflake as a gift for my mom in her first year teaching. I am drawn to the power of the object, humble or valuable alike, to hold strong memory and deep feeling. Objects have a tactile way of connecting us through time. I believe our ceremonious interactions with nostalgic objects perform the function of ritual in a contemporary life.

I do feel sad if I catch my pots in the back of cabinets, but I accept the fact that once a pot is sold, it is beyond my control. Sometimes I have seen a pot put to better use than was intended, and welcome seeing a piece through someone else’s eyes.

Not being much of a salesperson, sometimes I shy-out on marketing strategy. Feeling bold, I would paint a picture of possibilities, illustrating a future that is richer, more mindful, filled with daily interactions with a well loved piece of handmade pottery.

I have more questions to ask than to answer, particularly about the various meanings of function. Is there a distinction between function and utility? Do we use the word functional when we mean to say tableware? Is function inextricably linked to food? Is containment an essential parameter for function? There aren’t necessarily answers; I am more interested in the conversation.