There is a debate among fine artists and fine craftspeople about what to call work that has a function. Is it art, because it is creative? Or is it craft, because of its function? I'll admit it, I am one of those potters who fall firmly on the side of craft vs art. First, I have no degree- I am largely self-taught. I have an extensive background in art history, and while in college, I took several courses in painting, then explored the field of art education through museum internships. Art education takes up more room on my resume than pottery- it takes more of my time, as well. I have been known to make art, but my pottery is meant to be used, so that, combined with the lack of my formal training leads me to call it craft.
When I was in graduate school, I sat through a grueling review in which a friend, Ky Johnston (scroll down to see some of his beautiful, functional pottery), now a professor at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS , was thoroughly raked over the coals. Ky was working towards an MFA and brought one of his beautiful, simple mugs to the review. The thing that most stood out to me from that review, other than the professor's seeming rancor, was Ky's statement that he "wanted to make beautiful things for people to use everyday." Every time I'm at the wheel, every time I am at a sale talking with a customer, I remember that statement. That's my goal: to provide beautiful things for people to enjoy using on a daily basis.
There are a very few pieces that I make that I'd call art. This is one of them, but they are few and far between. I think that I prefer function in my own work. I am privileged to work with a true artist, Deirdre Daw, at the Brooks Museum. Her work is mind-bogglingly fabulous (and famous!) and she is a gracious mentor, generous with her time and knowledge. Perhaps someday I'll be able to pick up her gift for combining art with craft, or I will pursue art as ardently as I do my craftsmanship. For now, I'll continue to call my pottery craft and hope that people will use it as it was meant to be used, daily.