Lifelong Learning

I think it is safe to say that ceramics is a field that encourages, if not requires, some form of lifelong learning. Figuring out why clay and glaze do what they do (and how to get them to do what you want) can be a complicated, ongoing process. Perhaps those of us who gravitate to ceramics are already motivated to be lifelong learners, and the continuous challenges keep us engaged. I think that’s the case for me.

Ongoing learning provides its own rewards, as our facility with the material, grasp of multiple techniques, and the ability to both express ideas and understand the perspectives expressed by others in their work expand. When I need to learn a new technique in order to successfully express an idea I have, or need to figure out why a formerly tried-and-true recipe is suddenly anything but consistent, a sense of determination starts to build up. I’ll find myself intensely focused on the challenge at hand until I formulate a plan and start researching and testing.

For me, working on the editorial staff of Ceramics Monthly has been a great way to continue learning. There’s the research we do on new article ideas, editorial staff discussions, checking in on social media to see what fellow artists are working on in their studios, corresponding with authors, looking at exhibitions, reading about craft and theory, and meeting with artists at events. Then there are the annual contests we do, inviting readers to submit work on a variety of themes, which give me a chance to learn more about a wide range of ideas, techniques, and approaches to self expression. 

Roberto Lugo’s ‘40 Ounce Beer Cooler, 12 in. (30 cm) in diameter, porcelain, slip, china paint, fired to cone 10, 2017. Photos: KeneK Photography. Courtesy of the Wexler Gallery.

In this issue, we take a broad look at the ways ceramic artists learn, stay inspired, and expand their capabilities. We also look at how artists share what they do with others to break down barriers, build communities, and raise  awareness of the role that handmade ceramics can play in everyday life.

The artists working together in the studios at Creative Growth Art Center have the opportunity to learn new skills, explore ideas and impulses, and create artwork at their own pace, assisted by teachers (who are also artists) as needed. These artists overcome various disabilities in a professional environment that allows them to fulfill themselves to their greatest capacity—as the center’s founders Florence Ludins-Katz and Elias Katz intended.

Jen DePaolo collaborated with other ceramic artists and local businesses in New Mexico to create a series of pop-up dining events that allowed community members to get to know one another, as well as build ties with the makers in their midst. The events not only provided a learning experience, but also a chance to be more inclusive. 

Roberto Lugo’s artwork and social activism are also aimed at helping people to think about each other as individuals, to realize that everyone’s story is complicated, and that we need to approach one another thoughtfully. By bringing different cultures, backgrounds, and individuals together figuratively on pots (like the one to the left) and increasing access to art for people of color, Lugo aims to bring about positive social change and eradicate injustice.

Robert Piepenburg encourages us to look deeply into our own sense of spirit, learning who we are at our core, and keeping that knowledge at the forefront as we create, in order to make new discoveries.

As a lifelong learner, my take-away from this issue includes ideas shared in the technical articles—like testing the jewel-toned glaze recipes in Techno File, and thinking about the possibilities of my own art cart. I hope the issue also helps to satisfy your craving to keep learning.


Topics: Ceramic Artists