In my early twenties, I engaged in a lot of political dialogue. I organized with anarchists during the Seattle WTO conference in 1999 and believed in a revolution against corporate power. It felt strange to make pottery for a living since the medium tends to have a pretty quiet voice in a political strugle. Nevertheless, I did what I could, by donating cups with a circle ‘A’ to an anarchist fundraiser, by drawing a lot of cities, power lines, rats and traffic onto my pieces. Social-realist artists from the thirties like George Grosz and Kathe Kollwitz mainly inspired these pieces. However, I really needed to make a living with some of this work, and the anti-capitalist tone didn’t readily lend itself to craft shows. So I tried to create fine art instead, imagining the art world as a place that thrives on conflict and contradictions like mine. Strangely, I couldn’t leave behind the potter’s wheel to do this, nor was I able to disavow the craft and lifestyle of the production potter either.
So I created an installation piece called What a Thing is Worth. I wanted to express my frustration withproduction pottery in an industrial society and was inspired by a quote from Alexander Berkman in his book the ABC of Anarchism (1929). He wrote, “Value is what a thing is worth, while price is what it can be sold or bought for in the market. What a thing is worth no one really can tell.” I threw 101 vases with the same shape ascending an eighth of an inch at a time in scale from one inch to 18 inches high. I priced the smallest piece at $1000 and decreased the price by $10 per vase till the largest piece was free. My frustration, expressed as art, led me somehow to beauty.
My work is about how life overwhelms me. For all the effort I’ve put into art work to help find the solutions to all the social and political crises alive today, I’ve found no answers other than generoslity first to myself and then to others. That is overwhelming because there is so much catastrophe and violence mixed with so much beauty and love. If my work is confrontational, it is because I am confronted time and time again with nothing buy mystery: mystery and myself.