Spotlight: Point of Connection

Artists represented (from left to right): Mark Arnold, Sara Ballek, Austin Riddle, Jen Allen, and Melissa Mytty. To see more work from the Lip, Body, Foot exhibition at The Smithery (on view August 29–October 3), visit https://shopthesmithery.com.

Ceramics Monthly: As curators of “Lip, Body, Foot: A Cup Shaped Thing,” could you discuss your decision to exhibit handmade ceramics at a contemporary jewelry and craft gallery?

Lisa Belsky and Cat Sheridan: When we set out on the mission to curate an annual cup show in Columbus, Ohio, our goal was to raise awareness about collecting art (specifically in the field of ceramics). We believe that the cup provides a perfect entry point; this approachable and accessible object is a great way to engage and educate people who are new to or unfamiliar with ceramics as an artistic medium.

The decision to work with The Smithery, which is owned by Anne Holman and Jen Townsend, as a venue was an easy one to make. The four of us share a core value of highlighting individual artists within our respective fields as well as ideas of how we identify quality, craftsmanship, and uniqueness in handmade pieces. We both have great rapport and established relationships with Anne and Jen. After a visit to the gallery and casual conversation, the idea to partner for an exhibition came up.

While the worlds of jewelry/metal and ceramics are very different, they share some key similarities that fall in line beautifully with our mission as curators. There is a shared collectibility factor with emphasis on utility, interaction, and personal connection with the objects. We see a similarity between choosing which mug to drink your morning coffee out of and which pair of earrings best suits the mood of the day. Each moment is a personal point of connection between the collector, the object, and the artist.

CM: What are the benefits and challenges of working outside traditional ceramics-focused venues?

LB and CS: Our decision to partner with The Smithery came with some great benefits including the opportunity to reach new audiences. Their level of excellence and care in the curation and display of original handmade works is top notch. Our exhibiting artists are able to benefit from their strong online presence as well as additional sales opportunities within the brick-and-mortar shop. Unsold work may remain in the shop through the holidays and there is also the potential for the exhibiting artists to establish an ongoing sales relationship with The Smithery. We did, however, tighten our list of exhibiting artists to a smaller curated group in order to better accommodate the space.

The only real challenges we’ve been met with come from the pandemic. We were faced with navigating if and how to present the show. We all very quickly recognized that there’s a fundamental need for connection and beauty in a time fraught with uncertainty and sadness. We decided to push for putting more good and beauty, connection and support back into the world the best way we know how, by supporting artists.

Photo: Cat Sheridan.

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