MATCH STRIKER VIDEO
A month ago, Christa Assad, a fellow potter, broke her back when she jumped off of her second story porch while escaping her house that was burning down. She lost all her possessions; she lost her clothes, documents, family heirlooms, everything. For the next three months at least, Christa is confined to a stiff brace, so that her back can heal.
The ceramics community is tight and operates like a close-knit family. It’s also the warmest, most generous community I’ve ever known and so when collectively we heard about about her accident, the first response most of us had was one of deep empathy and a desire to help someone who has has been such a dynamic, giving force within the community. Christa’s pots are technically perfect, inventive, contemporary, and have soul. More recently, she’s been making socio-political sculptural work about the conflict in Syria and its connection to her own heritage. Not only is she a great maker, but she’s an amazing showman in the best possible way, giving style and life to what is often a fairly solitary pursuit. Whether you’ve only had the pleasure of seeing her on stage or have worked with her for many years, Christa is family.
For the next month, until April 1st, myself and a few friends have set up a donation page to go toward Christa’s living expenses, medical bills, and rehab costs for the near term. We’re also collecting money for artists who want to raffle off their work for Christa. The plate above, with the drawing of one of Christa’s classic teapots, is my piece for her raffle.
A big, fat thank you to the ceramics community and all friends of Christa’s for rallying around a friend who is family!
Hello, hello from the new studio!! All is well and I’m working as hard as I can to build up some inventory in both earthenware and porcelain. This holiday season, there are a few ways to buy my pots:
First, I’ll be trickling work out on Etsy through posts on Instagram from now until December 15th. Instagram has become a staple for me in terms of staying in touch with people and in hopes of getting more of you on board, I’m posting about these single pots on Instagram alone. I’ll post on Facebook later, but Instagram will be the first place to get news. Download the app on your smart phone, follow my feed, and you’re good to go.
On Sunday, December 15th, I’m in a craft show called Picnic in Portland, Maine so if you’re in the area , stop by and say hello.
The big holiday sale will be Tuesday, December 17th at noon EST on my shop. Don’t worry, I’m a fast packer and your pots will be to you before Christmas.
Special thanks to the talented Mike Wilson for making my 2013 postcard! I’m a child of the 70′s, what can I say?
Here I am again at the family cottage where I first landed a year ago last June. The cottage is an old friend with its distinct, musty smokiness, with its little spit of rock that juts into a little cove. There is a constancy here that’s a kind of anchor in my life. I decided to come home to Maine not only for the most important reason of caring for family, but also because I needed both a reconnection to the past that the cottage embodies and a major change.
Lately I’ve been thinking not about the exciting sort of change or the unwanted sort of change, but about the uncomfortable, gambatte sort. For the past few months, I’ve been taking swing dance classes a few nights a week. As an introvert, this is far beyond my normal comfort zone for a number of reasons and there is dependably one moment a week where I cringe inside (at myself, not anyone else). When I do, I remind myself that I want to be good at this thing that I don’t have an innate talent for, because I really love doing it. The fun trumps the cringe or as they say in class, “ the road to Coolsville is through Geeksville”.
I have a theory that almost all potters had an affinity for sports and video games as kids, developing their hand-eye coordination naturally. Although I’ve always felt confident making and doing with my hands, coordinating my feet, in fact my entire body and my brain on top of that, is a struggle. The mental exhaustion I felt the first few weeks of class and continue to experience after a few hours is similar to learning to throw pots, except much more humbling and challenging.
No one miraculously gets to be a good potter without having had (and continuing to have) the discipline to practice repetitively for hours on end, days on end. Gaining skill is inherent to craft and part of the cycle of problem solving and problem making that Richard Sennett talks about in “The Craftsman”. As soon as we master or solve one difficulty, we create another in order to move forward. Because being a cold beginner is not a position I’ve put myself in for years, it’s both fascinating to me as an educator and exactly what I need at this juncture in my career and in my life. The reality is that my stomach for failure ebbs and flows. On the nights where it feels less tolerable, I call it quits early knowing this is a long term commitment. Some nights, the gambatte spirit kicks in to pull me through, while other nights it feels easy because I get lost in the simple pleasure of moving. Thankfully, the trajectory of my development from a beginning ceramics student who sanded off the skin on their hand to where I’m at now is not in the too distant past. I can already see that I’ve come a long way at the same time as I can see how far I have to go.
I love the total focus that dance demands, the escape from the digital world into the kinesthetic. There is no question of not being present. The space of being present is a track that is being replowed in my mind, a track that has gotten caved in like a collapsing snowbank with distractions and superfluous details. When I was first in the studio as a student, I was fortunate that it was before cell phones tugged at our attention constantly. I practiced and practiced until I could intuit how much pressure I needed to make the floor on a cup or how to complete a scalloped ridge on the side of a bowl. That kind of proprioception, the act of muscle memory where doing replaces thinking and we know subconsciously what our body is doing, is what I’m looking for in dance because when a good dancer dances, it appears to be a holistic joy boiled down to its essence. Being able to intuit something leads to much more complex and interesting questions. I trust my gut all the time with aesthetic decisions ranging from the height of a beam, the color of a finial, or the exposure of an image. What I want now is to have that proprioception about body and movement that transcends studio tools and existing artistic frameworks. I’m afraid of complacency in the studio and dance is a force against it. Our value as craftsmen lies not in the objects we create but in the capacity we have to recreate well-made stuff again and again. Not only that, but when we have conditioned intuitions, we can play, and playing is what life is about.
In moving to Maine, what’s become clear to me in pushing past my comfort zone is that it’s more possible because of the reciprocity I feel with this place. There is such an abundance of beauty in Maine that I feel fed from many angles- the people, the land, the ocean, the architecture, and the objects. My new studio is getting close to being done and will be another kind of beginning. Every day I wake up and count my blessings.
Thanks to GlobalGiving, our charity for Handmade For Japan, you’ll be able to triple the impact your money has when you win this cup of mine in an eBay auction slated to end on Monday, March 11th at 9pm est. If you donate before midnight, March 11th, GlobalGiving will match your donation 200%, so $25 becomes $75! And even if you don’t participate in the auction, please consider donating, even if it’s $10. Every little bit helps!
March 11th marks the two year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the region north of Tokyo and claimed upwards of 19,000 lives. While there has been some progress with infrastructure in the region, there’s still much to be done to rebuild livelihoods and normalcy, especially for children in Tohoku and those in Fukushima. The Japanese government has received much deserved criticism for its slowness to help evacuees and its continued lack of transparency regarding issues of radiation in Fukushima. GlobalGiving is funding almost two dozen Japanese organizations dedicated to making the lives of Tohoku residents better. Some of these charities include leadership training for local youth, support for orphanages, broadening radiation sensor networks, and connecting aspiring entrepreneurs with local business leaders to stimulate economic recovery at a local level.
This porcelain love bird cup with silver luster will go up for auction on eBay on Sunday, March 10th at 9pm and end a day later at 9m est on Monday, March 11th. The bidding will start at its retail value of $160 and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to GlobalGiving who will match it 200%.
I’m pleased to announce that the winning bid was $668, so with the double matching grant, $2004 was made for GlobalGiving’s Japan Fund. Thanks everyone for spreading the word and bidding!
Traditionally I’ve had a Valentine’s Day sale, giving it little thought since the content of my work is so much about the sentiments of love. This year, with all the changes in my life and the quiet insulation that winter brings, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to make work in general and for this holiday in particular.
For many people, Valentine’s Day brings up strong feelings that run the spectrum from gratitude and lightness to absence and loss. By the same token, I’d like my work to hold enough complexity for one’s own unique story, yet leave enough direction to suggest the kind of optimism I ultimately believe in. There have been times when my work has been autobiographical and other times when I leave my own stuff at the studio door in order to tap into the bigger refrain of comfort that runs throughout my work. The discipline of focusing on the grander message of why I make work in the first place is grounding and despite all the flux, if I can make something that is funny or sweet or interesting enough to comfort someone, then I think that’s enough for me as an artist trying to find meaning in the world.
Over the years of talking to people, I’ve realized that a lot of my work is given as a gift. I’ve always said that I make work as much for other people, as I do for myself, so it’s funny that my customers buy my work for other people as much as they do for themselves. I’ve made very personal pots for people I love and, of course, those feel special very naturally. Most pots, however, don’t begin with this consideration in mind, so they simply begin as objects that I love making. They’re jokes that I make to myself or warm memories that I relive. It’s both miraculous and touching to me that they become gifts. However it happens, in the end it feels like an enormous privilege to have a part in an exchange between two people that creates more love and depth.
photo credit: Chloe Aftel