When I first noticed magnolia trees, the exteroceptive–interoceptive workings of craft began to run neural pathways to feed my soul. External and internal sensory perceptual processing is a root function of craft wherein we absorb our environment, emotionally observe and physically respond to what we find pleasing or significant, and then—we make.
What we value in our surroundings, as craft artists, metabolizes into expression; objects are made with our hands, minds, and also with our philosophical leanings. We build a kind of spiritual containment for our beliefs with what we make. We house emotional responses in the objects we choose to make with a material that resonates with us. I say “we” because one of the defining criteria of craft is dedication to a single medium: wood, textiles, glass, willow, clay. Potters typically don’t stray far from clay as a primary medium unless it’s to enhance, embellish, or complement our ceramic work. So, clay sculpture, vessels, and pots hold much more than their decorative or functional intentions. They also hold the essence of us.
And I’ll take it a step further: when we make in response to our environment, we expand who and how we are in that place. Our own sensory boundaries expand to include the environment we observe intently. Craft making becomes a method of interacting with, as well as internalizing, our ecological surround. When we do that, we are in relationship with where we are. We see more, feel more, and respect more.
Seasonal magnolia gazing moved me to make sculptural work years ago, but it also opened a whole different ethos for me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on just how those trees were changing me then, or how craft was a translating medium, but now the reasons are more evident: My ceramic practice became an environmental methodology: it allows me to feel, identify with, and expand into where I am. Inside. Outside.