Having spent so much time in my home recently, I started thinking about the art I have acquired and subsequently sprinkled throughout the interior. Although my collection has been edited over time, the current rotation consists of a painting from a street vendor in Barcelona, Spain; a few hand-dyed batiks from Bali, Indonesia; a hanging glass chain made by an Arizona sculptor; a Mission-style chair; and a vast array of ceramics in all shapes, sizes, and functions.

Elizabeth Paley

I have been asking myself: How has my collection evolved over time as I have? How has my personal story affected my acquisitions? Not long ago, I came across the following quote (source unknown), “Your life experiences dictate your art collection. We’re drawn to things that reflect different parts of our lives.” It is a simple concept. Yet, prior to this point in my life, I had never thought about why I collected the pieces I owned, other than liking the aesthetics. Which life events prompted an evolution from framed prints in college to a Southwest Native American weaving acquired in my forties? When did furniture become art to me?

Grace DePledgeSure money and education add to influence, but what forces or change in course caused me to haul a large, low-fire reduction platter home from Tuscany in my carry-on bag? My father was a baker and the kitchen in my childhood home was the center of our lives—maybe this explains the abundance of crafted items. I moved across the country and bought a small Cape Cod–style home—the domestic space is as much a shaper as it is shaped. An internship during graduate school at Ceramics Monthly set me down a path of seeing ceramics in a way I could have never imagined—hence all the ceramics.

I have always believed that each of us has a personal tool kit, a set of internal skills, experiences, references, and resources found on our path that evolves as we age. The acts of collecting art as well as creating art are very intertwined  and deeply personal. Each of us has a collection of tools, both physical and emotional, that contribute to these practices. This issue is dedicated to the tools numerous artists use to create and enjoy ceramic art.


Elizabeth Paley raids her kitchen for mark-making tools and uses them to alter the surfaces of her wheel-thrown vessels. Karen Bouse harnesses personal experiences to create dimensional tile paintings. Grace DePledge draws on her love of nature and a plethora of carving instruments to develop bas-relief plates. Eve Behar layers clay slabs cut from templates and stencils along with a contrasting color palette to form uniquely shaped flower bricks. And Jeremy Randall gathers local and recycled materials to build an outdoor oven for feeding the family and the soul.

We also have articles on using mood boards and mind-mapping tools to fuel creativity, lasers for smarter handle placement, and hanging mechanisms to help you put your own collections on the walls. Cheers!