Dinner is served...I tried my hand at plating a mid-summer-night’s meal of spiralized zucchini, homemade pesto, and tomatoes from the garden on handmade plates. Clockwise from top: Plates made by Bryan Hopkins, Meredith Host, Birdie Boone, and Lorna Meaden. The pesto bowl in the middle was made by Martin Möhwald.

When I was in college, first learning to make functional work, I was living in a dorm. I knew I loved working with clay and that making things by hand had a powerful effect on me, but I had a hard time using the pieces I made in my everyday life. I readily admit that they were clunky, my creative process was not yet formed, and my prior experience with ceramic tableware was limited to mass-produced items, so my pieces didn’t really register in my brain as particularly useful. However, there was more going on, and it related to my perspective and environment. My handmade vessels didn’t fit into daily dorm-life (no kitchen and a small fridge limited my food options). Therefore, I didn’t use them enough to figure out what worked well and what didn’t or to observe which forms and surfaces I gravitated toward so I could start to develop a personal aesthetic.

Later, when teaching college students, I watched them work through similar difficulties. So, I asked them to think about what vessels (if any) they used when eating in their dorms, then to design and make individual vessels or sets that could replace those manufactured or disposable items. The pieces they came up with were usually compact, spare, stackable, easy to clean forms—mostly bowls and mugs. The assignment shifted their perspective and got them thinking about how to design for a specific environment and situation.

This issue’s focus on education includes several shifts in perspective. Glen R. Brown explores how Arthur Halvorsen’s Food For Thought class helped students create handmade dinnerware for use in a restaurant, which is probably the most demanding environment.

Halvorsen invited chef Alex Crabb, owner of Asta restaurant in Boston, into the classroom for discussions about the students’ pots, why certain forms or surfaces are more popular with chefs, and the dinnerware he made for his own restaurant. At the end of the course, Crabb’s staff put the students’ work to the test.

The owners of the Wedge, a ceramics studio in Reno, Nevada, shifted their outlook as they focused on the community’s needs and sourced expertise from the wider creative community to help them grow and improve.

Dick Lehman’s approach to running a production pottery studio has evolved along with his experiences. He has worked with and mentored many employees over the years, but when health problems made it impossible for him to maintain the studio, rather than shut it down, he passed it on to his long-time employee Mark Goertzen, and the two of them made sure customers were informed and remained the central focus throughout the transition.

The creative processes shared by this year’s From Idea to Finished Form contest winners not only offer insight into what they do, but also provide multiple options for others to explore in the studio. The planning and finished images show how diverse interests, personalities, experiences, and skill sets lead to an inspiring array of self expression.

We hope you enjoy exploring the issue and find something that expands or shifts your creative perspective. If you’re inspired to try some new approaches, be sure to share them with others (including us)!


-Jessica Knapp, Editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists