Steven Colby

During the course of the last couple of decades, the studio pottery field has grown exponentially in terms of variety of processes, quality, and sheer number of excellent potters. Amid an admittedly diverse field, one prominent contemporary pottery trend exemplifies tour- de-force technical proficiency and apparent mastery of material and process, regardless of type of clay, firing, etc. Delineations between studio pottery, industrial or commercially produced pottery, and high design, are becoming blurred. The mysteries of clay and kiln are becoming less mysterious, or at least it seems so to me. This mastery is not limited to the making of pottery, but extends to professional presentation, self-promotion, and all around business savvy. Potters emerge from their training, whether academic or apprenticeship, highly sophisticated, and develop resolved signature work earlier and earlier in their careers.

There is a wealth of clever pottery, but to my mind clever doesn't always provide sustenance. I’ve begun to wonder if an older, pre-internet paradigm provided a catalyst for an admittedly slower, but deeper investigation and personal evolution of work. The best I can describe the quality exuded by what I consider to be the greatest pots, and what I miss in some of the most polished contemporary studio pottery, is a sense of humanity born from the accumulated experience of the potter. Certainly, I am impressed to bewilderment at times by masterly control of material, as well as the technology that makes new things possible, but in terms of soulfulness, not as much. I wonder if a 3-D printed pot feeds the soul as well as a 3-D printed sandwich feeds the body.

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