I’m not sure if it’s obvious to all of you, but there are a lot of things that have happened here at Ceramics Monthly this year—or, more accurately, at the Ceramic Publications Company. Any way you slice it, it’s the same small group of people acquiring and delivering all kinds of content, both in print, online, and in video. The year just seems to have flown by, and for good reason: We redesigned Ceramics Monthly with the March issue (it’s amazing that it seems like old news in some ways); launched the Ceramic Arts Daily Presents DVD series at the beginning of the year, with twelve titles now shipping; and relaunched our annual buyers guide as the Ceramic Arts Yearbook and Annual Buyers Guide (you’ll recall seeing it—and my mentioning it—last month). And after all of that, we had a little staff happy hour to celebrate and blow off some steam, and even then couldn’t resist turning it into an editorial research project (see “Beer in Your Clay” to learn more).
It now occurs to me that we should have saved up a little energy, because now we find ourselves heading into the 60th volume year of Ceramics Monthly, wondering what we could do to top 2011. Actually, that’s probably not the way to think about it. We don’t need 2012 to beat 2011; we need to figure out what 2012 is going to be all by itself. We’ll build on what we’ve done so far and continue to explore and expand our coverage of clay in the world and in the studio. And we’d love to hear about what you would like to see.
We’ve had several suggestions already throughout the course of the year, including running a series of articles on the icons of modern ceramics (some well known, some not so much), a look back at some of the archival material “in the vault” of CM, as well as a then-and-now section that points to significant progress, achievements, and advancements in studio ceramics. All good ideas, and I’m sure there are more out there. Please understand that the new additions and improvements we’ve made over the last few years are not going away, and we’re not talking about another redesign of the magazine (I think the staff really would revolt at that prospect), but we know there is always something to add, something to tweak, something to look forward to, so send your ideas to the email address (mine) at the top of this page, and I promise we will seriously consider all of them—we always do.
There is something to be said for coasting, a nice easy rhythm, a smooth downhill slope, finding out where you’re going when you get there, and not being in a hurry to find out. You could luck out and find yourself in some exciting valley location worth visiting—or staying—or you could simply be on a nondescript road staring up the next hill, in which case you will either stagnate there or learn the lesson of powering over the next hill, even if you don’t know what lies over that rise. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this: it’s just like the studio, just like pretty much any endeavor; you really need to work at something to make it good, to arrive at a place you’d like to stay for a while. No, there’s nothing wrong with coasting, because it does have restorative power, but sooner or later you will end up at the bottom of the hill, lose momentum, and have to start working tremendously hard to get moving forward again.
It’s not a new concept, but making art is not so much about inspiration as it is about working. Has anyone ever said to you, “I’m not artistic; I can’t even draw a straight line,” and you look at them a bit sideways because first of all that’s what rulers are for and second, being artistic is like everything else: effort, sweat, and practice are what produce good results, not talent.
Coasting is just preparation for stopping at some point. So, let’s keep the momentum going, in the studio, in this magazine, in the field in general. We can begin with this very issue, which focuses on eight potters who tell us how they have accomplished various aspects of their work, from concept to forming to surface decoration. No, this does not replace the work you need to do in order to make these processes your own and have them fit your work, but I think you’ll agree that they will provide the fuel for active experimentation in your own studio, a direction to follow, and inspiration for real work and real results. Let’s get to work.