Visitors to my gallery have often asked, “How did you get into ceramics?” It’s a good question, and I have a simple answer. My friend Rob Forbes turned me on to ceramics, when we were college buddies at U.C. Santa Cruz. Rob’s passion for pots was something he shared with me, as I was a painter. He gave me my first (and still the only) hands-on demonstration at a local studio. I made my only ceramic artwork, a small commemorative tile with the name of a legend in baseball, Roberto Clemente.
Today I recalled this because of the way we learn about art–it’s often a shared experience, a way of generously expanding our perceptions or investigating the world. My friendships with artists are probably the biggest reward of owning the gallery, as the artists continually point out the ways they see the world. Their natural storytelling, pointedly ironic anecdotes, and active guides to attention give meaning and relevance to our time together.
Since that early exposure from my pal Rob, I’ve had lots of help in learning about ceramics–almost all of it from Adrian Saxe, John Mason, Peter Voulkos, Peter Shire, Tony Marsh and all of the artists at my gallery. I’m about as lucky as any ceramics student could be. But, I have to give credit where credit is due (and Rob jokingly reminds me of that). Forbes continued with ceramics, earning an MFA and teaching art and design, before embarking on a successful career in the world of business. As founder of Design Within Reach, he became worldwide design maven, and now he has a new venture called Studio Forbes.
One of his many contributions to the world of design was to re-publish George Nelson‘s How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment. If you can get a copy of this, it’s a book that can change your world-view. As Forbes notes in his introduction, Nelson’s “…active mind and perpetual appetite for seeing and learning kept him engaged with the world, seeing the results of modern industrial society.”