Artist Statement

Octavio Paz wrote that beauty, in the context of craft, is "a violation of functionality."* On the one hand, much of the beauty of a craft object arises from its usefulness, by its being simply one of many. It is not significant in itself, but because it represents some aspect of our common humanity: we use a cup because we all, as living beings, need to drink; we clothe ourselves because we need protection from the elements. If we divorce a craft object from its usefulness, put it behind glass in a museum, we make it unique, thereby removing it from the reciprocal rhythms of daily life, the context of our shared condition.

But if a craft object were simply useful it would never catch our eye. It would never make us want to enrich our lives with its presence. A cup, after all, is merely a conveyance for water, a piece of fabric a way to keep warm. What makes us notice an object is the effort its maker took to make it more than just functional. Beauty in a craft object lies not in achieving perfect function, but in finding and venerating the flaws, the cracks in functionality that let the eternal spill into our daily lives.

Beauty is a balancing act, then, poised between the eternal and the quotidian, between the highly finished and the never finished. It is a perpetual state of completeness still in process. It is Orpheus, returning from the underworld with Eurydice behind him, unable to look behind him lest he lose her forever. While they are walking they are balanced between the two planes. Eternal process. When he turns around the process is finished, over, the object of his desire lost forever.

How, then, as a maker of objects, do I walk this same narrow path? How do I make the process part of the finished piece? Let the flaws and cracks remain? How do I resist the urge to look back and thereby break the spell?

How do I make myself realize that completing any one object, in the end, is not the point? That what we make doesn’t define who we are, only the process of making it, of using our hands to speak lasting truths as we live our daily lives. This is how we both recognize our mortality and reach beyond it, the vulnerability we reveal to let beauty shiver through into the world.

*In "Seeing and Using: Art and Craftsmanship" from: Convergences: Essays on Art and Literature. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1987.

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