Lee made meat loaf last week. It was divine as usual. It was the three way mix of beef, pork and turkey with her own special twist. She baked the meat mixture in an oval baking dish that has been in our home since I made it in 1985.
In 1985 I was a student in Brigham Young University’s MFA program. Here is a passage from an article I published a couple of years ago in Studio Potter telling the story of the pot featured above.
“One day in graduate school, I was working on a run of about a dozen baking dishes. I had them laid out on a table and was deciding how to glaze them when a professor passed through the room. He asked in a slightly irritated voice, “What is all this production work?” I mumbled something about Zen aesthetics and the Un- known Craftsman and kept on with my work. Later, when I was inspecting the finished pieces with my wife, she picked out one she wanted for our kitchen. The one she selected grew on me, and at her urging I photographed it and entered it in the 1985 NCECA Members’ Juried Exhibition. My piece was selected for the show. Word spread quickly in our ceramics department that I had gotten a piece into the NCECA show. Soon the same professor was in my studio, wanting to “talk about my work.”
I asked him if he remembered that run of “production work” that he had complained about. I then explained that he and I work differently to get to the same point. His approach involves a series of thumbnail sketches and maquettes, from which one is chosen to be executed full scale. I work by making a lot of pieces in series (read: production work), without a lot of con- scious thought given to each individual piece. After the firing I will select the one or two that have that “thing” that I can’t articulate but rec- ognize when I pick them up and examine them with my eyes and my hands.
When I was in San Antonio for the conference, a friend and I were visiting with a young woman who had a piece in the show. Her piece was an intellectually driven sculptural vessel that addressed how women are often tied to domestic drudgery in their traditional roles. It was a very smart and well executed piece and I enjoyed looking at it. She was not aware that I had a piece in the show when she said to us, “Did you see that “pot” in the show, you know, the casserole?” Her tone and diction didn’t speak of admiration, but of disdain. I wouldn’t have said anything, but my friend piped up, “Oh yeah, that is Joe’s piece.” She was embarrassed and I was amused. It was clear to me that my mundane pot, with its intentionally understated aesthetic and requiring touch and use for communication, was fighting an uphill battle for appreciation in that academic arena.”
That was all a lot of years ago. The dish is still in use in our kitchen where it risks wear, tear and possible breakage, but it has the best life a pot can have.