So much of what we do on a daily basis takes place via a screen interface, which is beneficial to artists in terms of widening our exposure to a whole host of ideas, knowledge, people, and artwork we would not have access to otherwise. That said, however, we are tactile and spatially sensitive folks and experiencing pots in real life is not only a treat, but also an education.
I personally pursue a “both, and” rather than an “either, or” approach to learning about artwork, and use a combination of online resources and visits to galleries, art centers, and studios to find out what artists are exploring in their work. Some galleries have their back stock stored in publicly accessible cabinets within the gallery space. I love to look through these—so much so, that I once spent close to two hours going through all of the cabinets at one gallery (The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). I don’t normally enjoy shopping, and think of it as a chore, but not when it comes to ceramics. There I was, handling plates, bowls, pitchers, mugs, vases, and small sculptures to make sure that I didn’t miss anything before making a purchase. The visual qualities of the different pieces drew me in first, but the tactile experience of feeling the intricate carved lines on a Shoko Teruyama bowl or the soda-fluxed glaze on a Julia Galloway cup (just to name two) gave me a more complete understanding of the pieces. Kyla Culbertson discusses a similar research and experiential approach to building her personal collection.
Many artists take advantage of the strengths of various sales outlets, from galleries and retail, pop-up, or studio spaces to online options like personal websites, Etsy, and social media. Shoko Teruyama discusses using both avenues for selling and showing different types of work in her Quick Tip article.
The powerful impact of showing a unified body of work in a physical space with an exhibition design that amplifies the concepts in the work is demonstrated well in Leigh Taylor Mickelson’s review of Julia Galloway’s “Endangered Species Project: New England” at the Office for the Arts at Harvard University. The abstract idea of mass extinction becomes palpable and real to viewers as they walk through the space filled with over 300 urns, one for each threatened New England species. The catalog is available to download online, adding an educational component for all of us who could not make it to the exhibition in person.
Integrating digital and in-real-life approaches has led to many creative solutions for both individual artists and galleries to make buying pots or interacting with art into an experience—from people’s choice awards at exhibitions to tea ceremonies to socially engaged events that allow for both actual visitors and those viewing from afar to participate. These strategies engage an audience or potential customer in a more meaningful way than a simple, often impersonal business transaction, like the bracket-style competition and exhibition “Mug Madness” organized by Saltstone Ceramics this past March.
There is a wealth of knowledge in the images and information shared by artists and arts institutions, as well as the events and activities they organize. That’s important for helping all of us to find ways to better connect with one another and our communities, to provide insights we might not recognize otherwise, and to be inspired and solve problems in our own art practices.
I encourage you to take a look at how you learn about and interact with the ceramics field. Check out the articles in the issue and the annual Gallery Guide to build on your existing mix of both brick-and-mortar and online resources and connections. Combining free-flowing online information with the curated point of view provided by gallery exhibitions can provide helpful contrasts and create a great mix of randomly wondrous discoveries and considered, conceptual perspectives.