I was 24 years old before I made anything I considered to be art. I had never taken an art class, I learned ceramics through watching others in the studio where I assisted and later taught children's classes. As a potter running a studio in downtown Manhattan, I focused on teaching and honing my technical skills to produce functional vessels.
I always believed in the poetry of clay vessels: how earth could be shaped through the force of human hands, tempered by fire, and become an object that serves intimate functions.
But is a mug a piece of art?
There is a knowledge that potters have of how the human body fits itself into utilitarian items: how a hand holds a handle; the way an arm must turn to pour from a spout; how you press your bottom lip below the rim of a cup as you take a drink. The vessel is shaped accordingly. I watched and learned these things. Slowly, I began to realize it was the relationship between the human body and the ceramic vessel throughout both their lives that I found so engaging.
I decided I wanted to make ceramic vessels that were more about this sustained relationship with the body. I explored other ways to design a vessel to function in response to humans. The objects pictured above represent two series I committed myself to making in 2009, urns and life portraits.
It was the success of the idea in the objects and the production of a series of work surrounding a single conceptual framework that convinced me this could be something. I might get to make a living learning. I can work as someone who explores the intersections between what we use and what we learn to make through careful implementation of the resources available to us.
Liz Lohr 2021