The January issue, for me, is always exciting. It’s the beginning of a new volume year of the magazine, and while we adjust and make improvements throughout the year, this issue is the one where it makes the most sense to implement new ideas and shuffle things just a bit more than usual. In this issue (and moving forward), we’ll be highlighting some of the technical content right after the feature articles. Not only do Techno File and Tips and Tools now reside there, but we’ll be presenting a few pages dedicated to glaze recipes in every issue as well. Of course, we always include glaze recipes whenever we can, but we hope calling them out like this will make them easier to find.
Another special January–issue item is our Residencies and Fellowships listing. This is another kind of new beginning for many artists—the first step from school (or any other learning environment) into making work out in the world. These opportunities are a logical first career step for many, not only because they include studio space, but many offer the possibility of teaching and exhibition experience. They also can be places for established artists to concentrate on studio time and perhaps develop a new direction in their work.
As we look to this new year for all the things we tend to look to a new year to bring (excitement, optimism, possibilities, fresh starts), it’s also typical to move past this milestone with quiet reflection, and perhaps some sadness for those people who will not be with us in the next year. One such person was a member of our editorial advisory board, but that was probably the least of his contributions to this field. Val Cushing passed away on November 17, and will be missed by more than those who knew him personally—which is a multitude. A future issue will contain a more fitting tribute to his legacy than I would be able to manage here on this single page, but his influence on the practice of studio ceramics—and on me personally—has been so vital that I would not feel right leaving his passing unacknowledged.
During my first year as editor of this publication, I attended the Utilitarian Clay symposium at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, full of all the trepidation that comes with being “the new guy” in a new role, trying to navigate a new landscape in which so many have extensive history and experience. I saw Val during a lunch break, and I mustered all the courage I could to stick my hand out and say, “Hi, I’m Sherman. I’m the new editor of Ceramics Monthly.” His eyes went wide and he smiled and said, “That is wonderful! We need young folks like you in positions like that. This is very exciting.” And I guess I don’t need to tell you that it made my year. We had a longer conversation than that, of course, and many more over the next several years, but in those first few words, he stopped being Val Cushing the icon and became Val Cushing the guy who really cares about ceramics and me; some young man he just met and knew basically nothing about. I realized in that moment why he was so revered by everyone who mentioned his name. Up until then, I had thought it was because his name was on so many glaze recipes and that his technical handouts were used in so many classes at so many institutions—and those certainly will be a part of his legacy—but I think the real core of his contributions and his legacy will be his genuine interest in and caring for the people in this field. It showed in his honest teaching, his insightful feedback, and his intense efforts toward encouraging the creative process (whether in making art or in making magazines). He did these things in such an open and positive way for so many individuals, and I count myself lucky to have been one of them.- Sherman Hall, editor.