When I first walked into the clay classroom at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, I was simply clay curious. I fell in love with the camaraderie of my fellow classmates who all seemingly shared one goal—throwing 10-inch cylinders with even walls—which they were determined as a team, akin to a pack of wolves, to achieve together. I fell in love with the enthusiasm with which my professors extolled the legendary local potters while throwing demo pots. And, I was totally enamored that the classroom was infused with an intrinsic desire to create as a way to contribute—not only to a life well lived, but to propel forward the Mingei-Sota spirit. Mingei is defined as the folk art of the common people, and Mingei-Sota subsequently refers to a collective of Minnesota potters who studied under Warren MacKenzie and believe, as he does, that a pot should be appreciated for what it is and not who made it.
After many classes, NCECA discussions, and years of editorial research, the influence of that classroom is still very much a part of my appreciation of pottery today. My takeaway from that time is summed up in this quote by Sandy Simon (a potter and past MacKenzie student) from her article, “The History of the Mingei-Sota Potters,”1 “A good handmade pot is cheap, usable, and imbued with the human spirit.” And while many pots made in Minnesota are dismissed as merely simple and brown, these pots are also the workhorses of our kitchens; our morning coffees; our daily meals. These pots don’t end up on the wall or the mantle, because they are perpetually in use. They always deliver on their intentions, and you always remember that they were made by hand by a potter who embraced the idyllic notion of nourishing the human spirit.
The annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference, which will be held in Minneapolis this March, pays tribute to those Mingei-Sota potters and the next generation of potters inspired by both their teaching and their pots. Pottery Making Illustrated will be there too, and in this issue, we’re showcasing Minnesota potters. Long-time Minnesota potter Guillermo Cuellar delights us with a sturdy stoneware cloche and a lesson in better bread making. Marion Angelica, also a Minnesota potter, shares techniques for handbuilding pitchers that embrace both utility and aesthetics in their construction.
As much as this issue applauds the established maker, it also champions the voice of a new generation of Minnesota potters and offers them a platform to engage with an interested and like-minded audience. Ernest Miller shows you how to make your own thrown and altered bottles with thin necks and defined lines; Sean Scott combines handbuilding and mold making to create lobed platters and accompanying dishes; Emily Price dives deep into surface decoration with layers of narrative; and Autumn Higgins teaches readers how to make compact, stacked sets for endless uses.
Each of these established and up-and-coming potters has developed their own style, makes pots with the intent of use, and most importantly, infuses both their pots and their practice with the human spirit. See you in Minneapolis!