Storytelling is a universal human impulse—we want to share histories, warnings, personal experiences, humor, hopes, knowledge. In ceramic art, the figure can be used as a means of storytelling to capture the viewer’s attention, elicit a reaction, or call upon their empathy, and, through that connection, open a channel for deepened interpretation and understanding. Reflecting on the artists and artwork whose figurative and narrative perspectives are included in this issue, I find myself drawn their stories and even seeing work that is not immediately narrative through a new lens that is more receptive to comprehension.
Kyungmin Park used the expressions on the faces of her ceramic figures to communicate her experiences as she met a language barrier upon moving from South Korea to the US. Facial expressions are still exaggerated and effective in Park’s newer work, though these expressions have extended to anthropomorphizing symbols—like apples and pandas—to reflect on identity.
Joanna Powell’s tableaux are multi-faceted scenes of a memory or phrase that has been unfolded and rendered in thoughtful handmade objects. Sincerity, curiosity, and a degree of fun resonate through each piece and installation.
In this issue’s Spotlight, Kiran Joan describes the natural and interpersonal influences that inform her ceramic work. Reviewing the exhibition, “We come from the other side” at the International Academy of Ceramics’ 50th Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, Heidi McKenzie examines the artists’ explorations of personal and political otherness through sculpture. Cristina Córdova shares practical advice in the Tips and Tools on setting up a workspace for sculpting. It’s critical to keep scale reference images in view when working from the figure, and to have good lighting for an accurate assessment of form and line.
Additionally, we venture into the studios of a few potters for whom place and progression are paramount in terms of influence, but also in how they conduct their practices. Jeffrey Lipton describes his journey through clay and how he has come to retrofit a studio space in an old barn in Litchfield, Maine. Marissa Childers leads us through her process for handbuilding plates inspired by feminine crafts and domestic spaces. Marie-Joël Turgeon and Jordan Lentink of Atelier Tréma grew their pottery to include a café, shop, and studio with a dozen employees. Marlene Miller states of Charlie Olson’s porcelain pottery, “He is not telling us a story, but rather, drawing us into a place of profound beauty, emotion, and mysterious vastness.” This insight piques my interest as I contemplate—particularly within the context of this issue—the bounds of narrative art and the role that emotion and mystery play in the genre. I hope you enjoy sharing in the stories told by the ceramic art and artists shown on the following pages.