By: AD Lenhardt –
Few things make me cringe as much as this question. I went to school at a time when Clay Artists (the term I prefer) were struggling to be respected in the fine arts community. The old argument of Craft vs Art can raise ire and hurt feelings, but is actually quite understandable from an outside perspective. If you ask most people on the street, “What is Ceramics?”, most are going to give you an answer that has something to do with functional, everyday objects: a bowl, a teacup, maybe even tiles. Their experience and relationship with clay is very different from those of us who choose to spend all our lives “in the mud”.
When asked if I am a potter I feel the need to not only justify my body of work, but also my entire profession. I politely explain that whereas I have the skills to create functional work and have spent many years teaching students to do the same, it is not where my interest or talents lie. There are wonderful potters who can make you an entire dinnerware set in an afternoon. That is not me, so I therefore would never take the title of “Potter”–I do not feel I have earned it.
To me the term Clay Artist covers so many wonderful, interesting pursuits. We may use the wheel to make bowls or a press to make tiles or hand build sculptures. Our work can be your favorite teacup or a mobile which fills the room. The tie that binds us all together is a love for a material, in all its forms. I no longer am offended to be called a potter as I was in my youth, but instead enjoy the opportunity to educate and inform people about my life’s passion.
It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. ~Kojiro Tomita