Thinking About Ceramics in the 21st Century: 7/4/12


by Susannah Israel

“Independence Day: Free Your Mind.”

While readying myself for a wonderful day and evening of relaxing, not writing, not firing kilns and most definitely not on facebook, I am thinking about independence.  What we need most in ceramics is independence from notions.

Notions about form that relate to function can enhance the work with clean design and new ideas about utility. But our prevalent notions about function are condemnatory, consigning anything made with the intent to serve and work to a lesser status.

Notions about art and craft – David Furman’s “worn out rondo” describes this conversation very well in 21st-century terms – have created a division that continues to run through the world of ceramic art practice like a dormant fault in a nuclear zone.  While we are arguing about what is right and wrong, we lose our ability for fresh, unfettered perception of what is.

Notions about the need for ceramics to escape the bonds of material-based preconceptions in order to enter the high-priced world of  the art market have sprung a peculiar trap.  Sculptural works in clay which lack technical development, originality, and evidence of disciplined dedication to practice are often promoted while strongly executed pots with exquisite surfaces and profound cultural significance are overlooked.

21st-century ceramics has a very long history, millennia deep and world-wide. Contemporary clay artists have begun a new tradition, embracing all the branches of ceramic arts. As Archie Bray has said, all we ask is that you are serious.

Wishing a happy holiday to everyone,

Susannah Israel

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