What is functional pottery? It it an art? A craft? Both? Or perhaps it is something that transcends the boundaries of either category. Functional pottery is, in my opinion: an art, a craft, a discipline, a spiritual experience, and also a way for human beings to experience first hand the creations of others in a way which brings them closer to the elements in which they were made from. It is also simply pottery which is useful, but artistic, created by human hands -- such as for eating, drinking, cooking, storing, and gardening.
Clay is earth, and the elements that interact with clay during the process of creation via fire and a quartz conversion -- make it into something very useful. Something that people can interact with on a daily basis.
I think when we are talking about functional pottery, it is necessary to acknowledge the Japanese contribution to the art. They have long been revered as masters of this craft. The Japanese view pottery very much as a Zen experience, and most of the people there appreciate functional pottery a great deal. Most Japanese master potters are also very wise and have practiced their craft for many years to get to the level they have achieved. They are patient and centered people that offer great insight into the world of art and the world in general. They infuse the concepts of Zen into their work, creating shapes and creations that truly are beautiful and inspiring.
Zen and Taoism have long been associated with fine arts and crafts and they both emphasize interacting harmoniously with the earth and all of it's inhabitants, as well as the laws of nature. They also emphasize the spirit which has a primal need to be creative. To be a practitioner of Zen or Tao is to be an artist. Many followers of Zen and Taoism are multi-faceted artists or artist/musicians who appreciate fully all that nature has to offer. They are artists of Calligraphy, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and also musicians of many different kinds of instruments.
Functional pottery is a great way for artists to share the experience with everyone. To bring forth a vessel made of clay is such a great feeling. To center a dull looking ball of earth on the wheel and watch as a new creation takes form in front of your very eyes. There is something so primal about interacting with clay and fire, which makes glazes turn into a form of art-glass which coats the vessel. There is something so fulfilling about holding a handmade mug up to your mouth to sip some fresh coffee or tea. It was made by someone. Someone who cares. Someone who puts passion and spirit into what they do and create. Someone who had the desire to become an artist/craftsman in order to give the experience of art to the world.
Nowadays in this cookie-cutter world where time moves so fast and so do the people, it is so very important to stop from time-to-time to smell the roses and to experience what we are put here to experience. Art and creativity help us tap into the spiritual side of things and it is important to have a balance within one's soul. Creating or using functional pottery can have a profound impact on people and I am one of those people who it has impacted. The feel of the glaze and the shape and the texture and color bring to life eating, drinking, and cooking -- some things that may otherwise become a fairly mundane experience.
Bring art into every meal or every sip, when you use something handmade from natural earthen ingredients. Support your local potters, and help them to keep alive the fine art and practice of one of the oldest forms of expression -- Functional Pottery.