The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.

Jon Stein:I think about the ideal audience for my work existing in an auditorium with tiered seats. The individuals farthest from the object have the least experience with ceramics and visual art in general. They respond to a work of art from their gut and pay particular attention to the bolder elements of design. What I love most about these folks is their quickness in forming an opinion about whether or not they like a piece.>

Moving a little closer to the stage are viewers who have some ceramic experience, like the hobbyist at a local community center or the businessperson who took a ceramics class in college. Having been humbled by clay at least once, these folks have a real appreciation of skill and the time it takes to acquire it.

1 Pourover coffee pot with warming stand and cups, 15 in. (38 cm) in height, porcelaneous stoneware, wood and salt fired to cone 10, 2022. 2 Vase with nails, 13 1/2 in. (34 cm) in height, wheel-thrown porcelaneous stoneware, nails from pallet wood, wood fired to cone 11, 2021.

Finally, sitting front and center are other dedicated makers whom I am in some kind of dialog with. Whether through exhibitions or the nearly immediate sharing of exploration in the studio, we are engaging in real time with one another. These people are likely to pick up on the references to historical forms or inquire as to the refractories I am using to build a kiln. In the best of cases, we challenge and motivate one another to make better work.

CM: What strategies have you developed to handle challenges you face, including setbacks in the studio or difficulties along the path to becoming an artist?

JS: Good fortune and happenstance have allowed me to surround myself with a chosen family that truly has my best interests at heart. Many of these folks are ceramic artists, and I’m lucky enough to work with quite a few of them on a daily basis. When life has knocked me down unexpectedly, I have been surprised at the number of friends present to help me back up. I think that cultivating these relationships and returning kindness is the best insurance policy for dealing with the ever-present obstacles on the path to becoming an artist.

In addition to investing in people, I try to create some distance between myself and my work. It’s not always easy to shake off a rejection letter or see that a social-media post isn’t doing well. I remind myself that I am not my work and tend to be a little less bothered by it.