I like to think that all of the clubs (or cliques) I belong to (officially or unofficially) consist of creative, insightful people. And it is for that reason that I must implore you—nay, beg you on my hands and knees—to never use the term fired up to refer to anything to do with ceramics ever again. There are so many great ways to describe what we do that I am continually groaning with disappointment at the many ways this easy-out pun finds its way into exhibition titles, group and business names, class descriptions, studio names, and press headlines. I know I am running the risk of alienating those of you who have employed this word play at one time or another—maybe even currently—but I think we’re mostly all grown ups, so we can have this conversation. How many times have you read a blog post or local paper that was headlined with something like, “Ceramic Artists get Fired Up at Local Exhibition,” or “Lots to Get Fired Up About at Local Arts Center.” Our content-review meetings here at the magazine have come to include me rolling my eyes in exasperation when fired up or one of its many cousins comes across the desk. So this is fair warning; don’t do it. I know it’s tempting. I know that you are actually fired up about clay (who among us it not?), but that’s not the point; the point is that too many people are too fired up about clay for it to maintain any real meaning; it has passed the point of cleverness into over-use, and is quickly becoming a cliché. In one respect, this is a good problem to have, because it means that there are more people joining our clay world all the time, and if it’s one of the few things folks who know very little about clay can think of to say when trying to get other folks who know very little about clay interested in something to do with clay, then I guess that’s fine. We need passionate newbies; we do, in fact, want them to be fired up about clay. But once they are interested, and we have them in our clutches, and they have learned a subtle thing or two about the wonders of clay, then I think it is reasonable to expect that their vocabulary and manner of dialog reflect their level of knowledge—which is to say that they move from being fired up to becoming stoked, or centered (well, maybe not centered—that takes quite a while).
I know that to avoid a term for fear of seeming pedestrian or low brow screams of elitism, and therefore possibly can be even more damaging, but like I said, we’re all very creative people and I know we can think just a bit more deeply about how excited we are about ceramics. Maybe we’re steeped in tradition, or our cups runneth over with the joy of ceramics. Some of us may be stuck on clay, and others may be throwing caution to the wind. If you must use a pun, there are just so many (some admittedly better than others). Give the wheel a spin, and something just might stick. Don’t go casting about for a mud pie in the sky; try to stay grounded. I can almost see your pinched expressions now, but stick with me on this, and we’re bound to turn, turn, turn the corner and slip into a perfectly fitting lid—I mean metaphor. Can you handle it?
Okay, enough; even those of you still reading are probably reaching your limit. Seriously, even though I do roll my eyes at some of these things from time to time, I can’t fault anyone for being that excited about clay. And with this issue, which includes so many people who are excited about clay in so many ways, there is enough proof of the variety in our field that I think a few should probably be allowed to be “fired up.” Some of them are workshop presenters, which you can check out in our annual Summer Workshops listing. Heck, Bill Jones, the editor of our sibling publication, Pottery Making Illustrated, starts off every issue with a letter called Fired Up. (I suppose I should prepare myself for the conversation we’re going to have after he reads this). If you didn’t mind my little attempt at humor, then perhaps Garth Johnson’s observations of Clayton Bailey’s retrospective exhibition suits your attitude. And of course, there is always a lot of great work in the Exposure section to get excited about and maybe go see in person, and Matt Kangas’ review of the NCECA biennial is sure to get you fffff—get you thinking.
I know that I am biased, but I’m truly excited about this issue—I am, however, most certainly not fired up.