The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.
Ceramics Monthly: What techniques do you use to make your work and why?
Christina Bendo: I make pots using almost every traditional method but slip casting. I throw, alter, slab build with molds and templates, pinch, and coil build to make my pots. The potter I worked for at the beginning of my career, Trista Chapman, impressed upon me the value of having diverse making methods for both body and brain. This was further solidified after I sustained a permanent injury from a heavy production throwing job and can now no longer throw for long stretches of time in each making cycle. Switching up the position I work in and avoiding too much repetitive movement saves my body from injury, but equally importantly, keeps things interesting! Because I make work in larger, cyclical batches for the wood kiln, changing making methods throughout the cycle allows me to stay engaged and generate new ideas.
CM: What is the most valuable advice you’ve received as an artist?
CB: To take this question quite literally, the most valuable piece of advice I have received is from my mentor Dan Finnegan, who is not just a brilliant potter but an excellent businessman: “If you can’t make enough of something to keep it in stock, raise the price!” This is but one tenet of Dan’s philosophy about inventory management. While other potters would unload the wood kiln at 800°F for a show and burn through their packing material while wrapping pots, Dan would always arrive with a collection of pots curated from several firings, tallied and inventoried in a notebook. He used to keep about a year’s worth of backstock on hand, an incredible feat that I can only hope to aspire to! Dan taught me that while selling out at a show might seem thrilling, operating a business from a state of constant inventory deficit was a sure way to get thrills of a worse kind. To say nothing of the danger of not having a safety net for emergencies, there is no surer way to achieve burnout than to be so under the gun all the time that you have no time to experiment and pursue new ideas in the studio. While I’m still far from the goal of a year’s worth of inventory, reevaluating the price of my work and what I offer has allowed me to turn my dream of making pots for a living into a healthy, viable business.
CM: What role(s) do you think makers play within our current culture? How do you think you contribute to it?
CB: I think makers are keepers of the ancient, instinctual human need to create things with our hands in order to survive and make sense of the world around us. The incredible capability of the human hand has set us apart from other species and allowed us to build civilizations and create rich and diverse cultures. In an age of globalized mass manufacturing, most objects used in daily life have become cheap, homogenous, and meaningless. Makers must increasingly shoulder the responsibility to keep alive traditions of making things with the human hand and preserving the rituals surrounding the use of objects that hold intention and meaning.