“US rugged individualism is so celebrated that it undermines a blatant honesty—that humanity has never done anything of significant value alone.”—Cannupa Hanska Luger 

We all need one another, both to realize great achievements and to live and thrive in our daily lives. Even our individual successes are  the product of both our own hard work and a network of support. These networks include family, friends, colleagues, teachers and mentors, our communities, social networks, customers, patrons, and the innumerable people working in a myriad of jobs that we rely on every day. 

I know that I would not be where I am today as an artist without the support of so many people, and beyond support, the actual hands-on help and hive-mind consultations I’ve received from friends and family when making and installing large-scale projects. 

I also know the importance of collective effort through my day-to-day work as the editor for Ceramics Monthly and associate editor for Pottery Making Illustrated. This magazine that you’re reading exists because of the contributions of the people whose names you see on the masthead each month and the artists and authors who write articles. It exists because of the readers, institutions, and advertisers that support the publication. It is a collaboration, a community project that both sources and builds collective knowledge. 

ALMA Summer Institute’s Meditation & Medicine For What Lies Ahead (detail), 2018. This mosaic focuses on the future in terms of growth, healing, and balance. It was created by ALMA lead artists Vanessa Alvarado, Margarita Paz-Pedro, and Cassandra Reid, along with lead apprentices Jaqueline De La Cruz and Victoriana Lucero, and 14 additional apprentice artists.

In this issue, we focus on artists who center community in their studio practice and their lives, including Rashida Ferdinand, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Yinka Orafidiya, and Margarita Paz-Pedro. They blend art with their desire to contribute to humanity. They believe in and rely on collective intelligence, and work to open up the practice of ceramics to all, ignoring traditional hierarchies or pedigrees. These artists are driven and work hard, and their individual work ethic and creativity is not to be discounted. If creativity is, as the author and journalist Arthur Koestler explained it, the process of bisociation, or connecting and synthesizing unrelated ideas in new ways,1 then these artists are extending that. They are generating what Linda Sanders, professor in the design department at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and former design research consultant, describes as collective creativity (bisociation shared by two or more people)2 to revive, recover, rebuild, and restore lost cultural traditions and physical spaces alike. This creative collaboration between the artists and those in their communities extends through the planning, research, design, and making processes to different degrees. Communities become participants in, as well as  interacting with the finished works.  

In addition to artists who focus almost exclusively on collective creativity, this issue also covers several who have specific, smaller  outreach projects. From websites to workshops, the artists, including Mike McManus, Byju S R, and Audry Deal-McEver, carry out these projects along with their individual studio practices to enrich their communities and the field. McManus started Kiln Share, a website where artists who don’t have a way to fire their work can find kiln owners in their area who are willing to rent kiln space. Byju hosts workshops at his studio, mentors other artists, and plans to open a ceramics school for kids and adults alike. Deal-McEver created an online Clay Shrinkage Calculator to help anyone faced with the task of remaking a broken lid for teapots and other forms.  

If you have an idea that would help the field of ceramics or enrich your community, but aren’t sure where to begin, the experiences and advice shared by the artists in this issue provide great examples. If you are interested in seeing collective creativity in action and want to make or learn in a group with others to branch out in new ways, check out the summer workshops listings.

1, 2 SonicRim, Linda Sanders.“Collective Creativity,” Design 6 / LOOP: AIGA Journal of Interaction Design Education no. 3 (August 2001): 1-6, http://echo.iat.sfu.ca/library/sanders_01_collective_creativity.pdf. Accessed February 28, 2022.
Topics: Ceramic Artists