The world is made up of two camps of people: hunter-gatherers and producers. I suspect that most ceramic artists put themselves in the latter camp—those who need to innovate with each new form. Myself, I’m in the former camp. I start with an idea, and I gather nuggets here and there to make the idea a whole. My pieces are a conglomeration of my interest in multiples; a well-honed skill set of forming techniques; plus tips from other artists on materials, surfaces, and displays. So the hunter-gatherer camp is a good fit for me.
I’ve been a gatherer since my first National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2002. One’s first NCECA can be a bit mind blowing with ceramic art and artists as far as the eye can see. I went in very green and I left with the permission to make and try everything. Since that conference, I’ve seen each one after that as fertile ground for collecting inspiration to keep pushing my work in new directions.
This year the annual NCECA conference is once again in Kansas City for its 50th anniversary. I plan to take a good look at not only what the wider ceramics community is making and how they’re making it, but also what the other attendees are talking about and what their thoughts are on current ceramics, which can prove to be a great inspiration. In fact, I think this is the best part of NCECA.
This issue features several ceramic artists who call Kansas City home and help to make it such a great clay town. Brice Dyer shows us how he layers multiple clay bodies to form geologically-inspired functional ware. Melanie Sherman combines her love of varied cultures from East and West to create refreshingly contemporary china-painted platters. And, we are also showcasing the work of six local artists who, although prolific in their own right, come together to create a wholly unique body of functional work. Meredith Host and Alex Watson, Chandra DeBuse and Tommy Frank, and Paul Donnelly and Rain Harris write about their collaborative practice and share their processes as well.
Regardless of whether you attend the conference, flip through the issue and try out your hunter-gatherer skills. If you do attend the conference, we’ll be there too, discovering new artists and techniques for future issues of Pottery Making Illustrated. Don’t forget to stop by our booth, #418, and say hello.