pottery IS political.

So a few weeks ago now I received a comment on one of my instagram posts on @musingaboutmud suggesting that I should stop talking politics and stick to sharing pretty pots. You know, trolls being what they are online I should have just ignored and moved on. But I couldn’t. You see everything I do in my art practice I believe to be political. In fact I have a hard time disassociating much of my life and how I live it from questions of/or the context of political and ethical concerns. So being the stubborn workaholic that I am I decided to turn this person’s question into a an action. I know so many artists, potters, sculptors, painters, bread makers, you name it, that see their craft as political. Thus @potteryispolitical was born on instagram as a platform to have some discussion about the role of pottery in politics, or politics in pottery.   Why this feed focuses specifically on pottery rather then all forms of political ceramics (installation, sculpture, etc.) is that I think pottery for many audiences isn’t really associated with politics. And that is a misunderstanding. So this feed aims to bring attention to the many makers both contemporary and historical that have used the vessel to present political subject matter, or used their lifestyle as a potter as a political stance. There are so many beautiful voices out there relaying the context of our time through their work. From personal stories to headline news. The magic ability of the vessel to take those narratives, those commentaries and put them straight into the audience’s hands, into the domestic sphere of the home, into the workplace through a coffee cup on an office desk, is beautifully subversive. May we resist in any way we can, and may our voices be heard through our artwork as well as our actions.

In the last two weeks I’ve been in touch with many artists who have shared stories and suggestions of artist’s works relevant to this topic. I wanted to share in particular the words of the artist Carter Gillies. If you follow him on facebook you will be keenly aware of his way with words and his desire to ponder many great topics relative to the arts and life in general. In a recent email he stated the following which coincided with my constant questioning if making political pots is effective.

Carter Gillies at his studio

With so much going on in the world that seems urgent, I started to question whether making pots was enough for me to do. In the times we are living in, does making pots make sense? Does making pots make a difference, the right kind of difference in a world with so many terrible needs? And in the world that is being shaped inexorably by politics, are pots part of that conversation? Are pots political?

Some art is overtly political, but not all art claims to speak out on issues. So the question is whether being political is more than merely explicitly stating something. If it’s not necessarily commentary, what is it?

The first thing I would say is that making art, maybe especially making pots, perhaps, is an act of resistance. So many signs in our culture point us away from the value of art, from the value of beauty in our lives. There are exceptions, of course, but lets face it, the arts are not always encouraged. Funding in schools is often the first to go. Art seems trivial to too many in our culture. A luxury. It needs to be explained. It needs to be justified. And it has no real place in our daily lives.

Why bother with a handmade cup when we can get a mass produced one for a fraction of the cost? Is this an economic question? It could be. Is it a practical question? Possibly. Is it a political question? Yes it is. Politics aims to give us the shape of our world, what things are possible and what things are right to pursue. It places the options in front of us and asks us to choose. Immigration. Taxes. How we intend to lead our lives.

Cater Gillies

The opportunity to drink from a handmade cup is as much a feature of politics as the availability of jobs. We claim this for ourselves and for the wellbeing and future of our community. THIS is the shape of the world we seek to bring about. Beauty BELONGS to us. Handmade has real VALUE. The arts are worth encouraging and worth supporting. They are worth DOING. We build our lives around that fact. And we resist those who diminish what we do. We contest the shape of the world that does not include us, that does not include beauty, that does not include the value of the handmade.

We are responsible for making the kind of world we want to live in. That is politics in a nutshell. Translated from the early Greek, πολιτικα, or Politika, means “affairs of the city”. This is precisely what we are engaged in. Pottery is political.” – Carter Gillies, 2018.

At the same time as I was getting this instagram account going, the incredible crew over at East Fork Pottery was preparing to launch a similar campaign about #potteryispolitical. So nice to see so many people having the same types of conversations about pottery and its greater impact.



I highly encourage you to head over to East Fork Pottery either in person (if you are so lucky to be close by) or online. Support the work they are doing to raise awareness in our political times.

You can purchase this shirt to let the rest of the world know how you feel here.

From their site: “At East Fork, we believe that businesses, artists, public figures – all of us – have a responsibility to contribute to the holistic wellness of our communities.  We know that communities thrive when all voices are heard, when marginalized voices are listened to extra closely, when our children are safe from threats of gun violence, and when everyone has access to basics like health care, clean water, and education. So when people tell us to “keep our politics out of our pottery” we say, no can do.

Proceeds from the purchase of the Pottery is Political t-shirt will benefit Everytown USA and Higher Heights.

  • Higher Heights: Higher Heights “invests in long-term strategy to analyze, expand and support a Black women’s leadership pipeline at all levels” to “elevate Black women’s voices to shape and advance progressive policies and politics.”  If you’d like to know more about why we think electing progressive women and people of color to political power is essential to our country’s well-being, you can find some good info here and here and here.
  • Everytown USA is a “movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.” This one’s a no-brainer. None of us need assault rifles. Period. “


I’ll leave you with this fitting quote below by Toni Morrison that Jill Foote Hutton sent me the other day, and with a call to action for you to get involved. I’m working with a few guest hosts on the Pottery is Political Instagram feed, but I want to hear from more folks, share more voices and more diverse work. So please reach out and share your work or the work of others either in the comments to this post or by using the #potteryispolitical hashtag on instagram. Thank you : )

“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS,” she declares. “What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” Morrison laughs derisively. “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.” ― Toni Morrison



call for artists: Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award

The Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award, founded in 2014 with Northern Clay Center, provides an opportunity for students and emerging artists to continue their ceramic research and education for a period of up to twelve consecutive months within the grant year, further expanding their professional development. This award is available to current undergraduate or graduate students, recent graduates (within one year), or those who have completed a university-equivalent training in ceramics (including apprenticeships) within the year prior to the application deadline.

During the grant year, the recipients can research a new technique or process, study with a mentor or in an apprenticeship setting, travel to other ceramic art centers or institutions for classes and workshops, collaborate with artists of other media, and travel. Proposals to fund large capital equipment purchases will not be accepted. Between one and three cash awards will be made in 2018, up to $4,000 each, for projects taking place between May 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019. Recipients contribute project updates to Northern Clay Center’s social media and are required to give a public presentation at their school or other institution. See updates from past recipients at northernclaycenter.blogspot.com.

Applications for the 2018 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award are due by 5 pm on Friday, April 13, 2018.

The Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award is made possible through the support of generous individual and institutional donors in honor of MacKenzie’s legacy of ceramic education, both traditional and non-traditional.

For more information and to apply, visit: https://www.northernclaycenter.org/artist-services/artist-fellowships/warren-mackenzie-advancement-award

If you have questions, contact Jill Foote-Hutton at jillfootehutton@northernclaycenter.org

residency opportunity: Salt Spring Arts Council

The Salt Spring Arts Council (SSAC) and the Artist in Residence steering committee are pleased to announce the third year of the Artist in Residence (AiR) Program on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

The Artist in Residence (AiR) Program provides an opportunity for artists to work in the vibrant arts environment of Salt Spring Island. The program is open to all Canadian professionals working in the arts, in any genre or medium, at any stage of their careers. AiR encourages applications from artists of diverse cultural and regional backgrounds. The intent of the program is to provides the time and space for creativity and productivity and introduces visiting artists to Salt Spring Island and its arts community.

Residencies are awarded based on available facilities, potential links to the Salt Spring community, collaborative opportunities and artistic merit. 

In the last two years AiR has welcomed Canadian artists living as far away as Thailand and from as close by as Victoria. Their projects have been equally wide ranging and have involved explorations of photography, printmaking, sculpture, painting, beading and curatorial studies. They have shared their work through presentations, workshops, demonstrations and exhibits, enriching our island with their work and ideas, interacting with Salt Spring artists and enjoying our unique island life style.

The AiR program invites artists to ‘Come, share the experience” and engage with the creative cultural community of Salt Spring Island.

Within the spirit of this framework, collaborative proposals by members of the Salt Spring arts community which involve off island artists are actively encouraged.

Applications for the AiR program can be submitted on or before May 1st. 2018 for tenure between October 2018 and April 2019. Application information is available at http://ssartscouncil.com/artist-in-residence/


This message was sent by: Artist in Residence (AiR) Program, Salt Spring Arts Council
114 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada V8K 2V5,
Email: air@ssartscouncil.com