by David JP Hooker
Granted, I don’t make pots like I used to. And I’m not interested in making pots like I used to, either. I have grown too enamored with other art practices. Right now I have several projects going at once and many of these, being conceptually oriented, involve everything from wood to collage and drawing to performance/video art. Too many projects, to be honest.
But I don’t think I’ll ever give up making pots altogether. I did, after all, get my M.F.A. in Ceramics. As my colleague John Walford quipped earlier this week after finding me slouched over a potters wheel, “You can’t keep your hands out of clay for long, can you?”
True enough. But as I continue to think about what I want out of pots and what is at the heart of my desire to make pots, it is the thing I find in these photos. It’s not the perfect cool-funky “signature” form, it’s not the perfect glaze, it’s not the admiration of the ceramic world, it’s not even to further advance the dialogue about craft. Lord knows I once wanted all of these, but I think I’m through with all of that now.
It’s community. It’s people gathering, breaking bread, drinking coffee, sipping wine . . . and talking. I want my work to be a part of that, to be in service of that — hopefully to enhance that coming-together, community-building, learning-to-love-one-another activity in some unspoken way. And that means the pots have to be simple and soft spoken (well, as soft spoken as it is within my nature to create). Pots that garner attention don’t get used — they get doted on. They don’t serve, they get dusted.
If community building is my goal, then the measure of my success has to be seeing the work dirty, waiting to get washed and put in the cupboard. It is not seeing the work put on a pedestal, nor is it winning awards in the best national juried shows.
And that is not an easy pill for an ambitious guy like me to swallow. I think I have fought that for a long time. (Maybe I am still fighting it by turning to other media). Still, it is the right thing for me. So I will continue to make pots and, maybe through them, I will find that I am being shaped myself, turned into something useful, something that can be of service in community.
David JP Hooker teaches in the Art Departement at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.