Over Thanksgiving I was in New York with the family, and instead of wasting the entire time shopping (OK, I may have wasted a little time shopping…but is it a waste if it results in a beautiful pair of pants?!), we planned a museum day, which was a great success.
It never ceases to amaze me how much pottery there is in a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They never label them as “pottery” or “ceramics” exhibits, so one has to search rather diligently sometimes, but with a little luck, you’ll discover gems like entire rooms full of Venetian porcelain, Mayan vessels sprinkled among the South American wing, scads of Greek urns and wine cups, or centuries old Korean teapots.
In a place as big as the Met, I think it’s best to narrow your focus and just go straight for what you really want to see, rather than meandering through countless hallways and pondering hundreds of paintings. On this day, I decided my mission was to seek out the pottery in each exhibit, and more or less ignore the rest—and while I felt wee bit guilty about passing by famous works of art, I came away from the museum with an affirmation of one of my favorite clay lessons: Each of the exhibits featured a distinctly different style of ceramics, but it’s all the same.
It’s all pottery or ceramics or whatever you want to call it, made from mud out of the ground, whether it’s insanely delicate porcelain with meticulously hand-painted images of rabbits or chunky, roughly textured terra cotta storage jars, it’s all been made by humans who needed something to put something in—a cup for tea, a bowl for mixing, a jar for grains. And we’ve been making these things for centuries! As a potter, it’s an incredible tradition to be a part of.