NCECA’s 2019 Conference theme, Claytopia, references the Japanese Mingei Movement, the British Arts and Crafts Movement, and their shared focus on the artfulness of everyday life. While Mingei took hold as a major influence in Minnesota and the Midwest, Arts and Crafts ideas held sway on the East Coast, with a strong center in Philadelphia.
Social issues have been at the heart of the Craft Movement since its birth in the mid 19th Century. At that time William Morris, an artist, writer, and socialist, and his peers in Britain wanted to expose the dehumanizing qualities of mass industrialization and promote the value of handcrafts. They believed that making functional art, preserving traditional production methods, and living with handmade objects improved people’s lives. These ideas reached Japan in the early twentieth century, combined with a rising interest in protecting traditional crafts, and the Mingei Movement, led by Yanagi Sōetsu, was formed to celebrate the hand-crafted art of everyday people.
These ideas also took a deep hold in the US where artists established communities dedicated to cooperative living through art making. Promoting artfulness in everyday life, equality among the arts, and among people was the goal. Utopian ideals, and focus on handmade functional art making, created an attractive alternative to rising industrialization. In Philadelphia this spirit continued throughout the 20th century, and in 1974 The Clay Studio was founded on the premise that artists could work together to support each other and to make art available to wider audiences.
The concepts generated by these earlier movements - creating utopian artistic communities and making art filled life available to all people, are alive and thriving in the work of ceramic artists in both Philadelphia and the Twin Cities. Creative Collective highlights 13 artists who have worked over the last 45 years to build The Clay Studio into an organization that truly makes a positive difference in the world, our own version of Claytopia. Each has had a major impact on our mission to support artists and make ceramic art available to all people. As we reach toward The Clay Studio’s future with a new building opening in 2021, we redouble our efforts to create the art that is life.
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