Finding Understanding through Interaction

Each spring, we are usually working on the Emerging Artists issue right around the same time that we are attending the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference. Beyond the timing, there’s a relationship between the two for me, they provide an opportunity to see new work (like the mug by Ben Jordan below), and there’s a sense of energy and possibility. There’s also a sense of joyful creativity and deep inquiry (whether profound, poetic, or irreverent) into ideas, experiences, and issues that are relevant in our shared lives as a global culture.


I have learned to be as prepared as possible (chance does favor the prepared mind) and then let the NCECA experience wash over me, connecting with people, and pulling in as much information as possible before I get overwhelmed. Afterward, I try to find a quiet space to reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned, jot down some notes about how it applies to my life as an artist and as an editor. It is a fascinating and charged environment to be a part of, and I’ve found this to be the best way for me, to get the most out of the conference.

Seeing the new work made by all of the people who entered the Emerging Artists contest this year—whether they started out with clay as their first career, returned to it after a hiatus, or first touched clay later in life—gave me that same sense of unbounded creativity, and it also made me think about connection and interaction in a broader sense. Many of the artists are looking to bridge the gap between audience and artist, between members of a community, between different cultures, and even different time periods. Through form, surface, and context they’re finding a way to break through some of the dizzying multitude of distractions surrounding all of us to allow us see and hear each other, to help us think about how we move through spaces, to enable us to savor the small moments, and remind us to value the things we use and surround ourselves with.

There seems to be a palpable need and desire to combat the physical isolation many feel today, despite the fact that we are so digitally connected to others. This desire to focus on how we are interrelated and how we can meaningfully connect with one another is manifest in different creative solutions and perspectives.

Ben Jordan’s mug, which I picked up at the Objective Clay ( expo booth at the NCECA conference in Portland, Oregon last week, requires a 360° view to fully appreciate the patterning and the perfectly designed and executed handle that keeps my fingers from getting too toasty when it’s filled with hot tea, but also allows me to grip it casually with my index finger while my middle finger wraps under the handle for further support. His work is new to me, but as soon as I saw Jordan’s work on the shelf, I had a moment of resonance, where I connected strongly with the aesthetic as well as the concept he is expressing. Visit to see more of his work. Photos: Laura Strickland.
-Jessica Knapp, Editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists