As a potter I’ve never really thought about being political; don’t get me wrong as I’m very politically minded, but incorporating those themes in my work always seemed far off. Even with artists like Grayson Perry and Michelle Erickson making politically-charged work I assumed that everyday pots (opposed to ones shown in museums) were made to be self-reflective, studies in proportion/aesthetics, and push the envelope towards craft. It wasn’t until Ayumi Horie launched her 2011 Handmade for Japan campaign that showed me the amount of support and awareness that you can build with pots. Since that time we’ve seen iterations of relief-structured systems within the ceramics community that help those in need.
This time it’s a little different. The disaster hasn’t struck yet. And that’s the brilliance of Ayumi – she thinks ahead. She responds. With pottery. Her brainchild is The Democratic Cup, a platform for discussion about democracy using custom decals on limited-edition ceramics as a catalyst. What I like about the setup of graphic imagery over functional objects is that opinions about subject matter is more subversive than spelling it out in words; it creeps up on you and you are allowed to form ideas and opinions.
When I watched the first presidential debate I was alone in my apartment. Angry. Angry that I didn’t have anyone to talk to in the milliseconds after it ended. I wanted to be with people, even with different opinions so I could have a sounding board. And that’s when it clicked; if The Democratic Cup was promoting discussion on democracy with ceramics then I could definitely facilitate that discussion in line with the debates. On October 9th we came together for the Presidential debate and discussed what is happening in the US. We passed around TDC cups made by 26 ceramic artists and illustrators. We had pancakes. We were a community.
I encourage you to look for community groups in your area to have discussions – even if you know they will get heated. It’s important to voice concerns and learn from eachother. My biggest takeaway is that even if two people do not agree on an issue, talking it out will make you better understand WHY you have a strong stance. Democracy is for everybody (no pun or joke intended), which is why I can’t stress communication enough.
Please take a look at The Democratic Cup and how they are using their creative assets to create community and platform. Clay Art Center is proud to have been able to play a small role in the promotion in a movement like this one. Unsold cups are still available in our Main Classroom and information on each specific cup can be read there – we will have them available until the election ends.
Adam Chau is the Program Manager at Clay Art Center. His studio is in Port Chester, where he utilizes digital fabrication methods with traditional studio pottery. Publications include Ceramics Monthly, The Studio Potter, and Ceramics Technical.