Rambling: Connecting Community

Community:  the people around us.  As a maker, an artist, my community includes those who make, and those who understand the connection and value in handmade functional things.  We make them, use them, appreciate them, and go out of our way to explore this human-ness that urges us to turn one thing into another, over and over again, a lump of earth into a cup, a tree limb into utensils, a thought into a well-crafted story.  Honing these skills in community brings richness to our lives, if we are open to it.

Potomac Leaves in Circle

Community: the place where we exist.  The place on this planet where our lives have set roots, the land from where we make and walk and cook and talk and dream, the Potomac Watershed. State lines are arbitrary; this watershed is real, rich with the tangible. We can know our place by the bend in the river, the sycamore with bear claw marks, the cave in the jagged limestone bluff.   Water ties us together, from fields and crops to fracking and coal slurry leaks.  The C&O Canal, running from Ohio to the District of Columbia, becomes the Highway along our Waterway, the Potomac River.

Connection:  Makers blend ‘Community the Place’ and ‘Community the People’.  What and how we make is deeply connected to where we make.  We understand that cups made from the earth we walk on tie us closer to this earth we walk on.  Chairs made from the trees around us bond us to these trees.  The depth of living is unlimited when we continue to connect, deeper and deeper, with the world around us, both by paying attention to the natural world, and by bringing that natural attention into our lives. Cultivating this sense of place is the deepest art of living. As a local maker, I wander these fields and waterways for inspiration and connection.  When we appreciate and use the work of our local makers, we are brought closer, day after day, to our place, our watershed, to the Potomac’s quiet meander and rock-rumbling rapids, the wood thrush calling, the sycamore’s twisted limbs.

Potomac Clay Weekend is one small weekend celebrating these connections.  Go outside.  Hike the Appalachian Trail.  Walk/bike/kayak the Potomac River and C&O Canal.  Hear the river’s voice change mile by mile.  Listen for the thrush.  Stop for a moment to take a close look at the Virginia Bluebells.  Go out of your way to visit a local maker.  Touch the clay.  Talk with and get to know your community.  Seek out local.

There is a difference. You’ll see it in the pots we make. The river and the trails will become familiar to you.  This beautiful, wild and wonderful time and place is yours.  Embrace it.

Potomac Rock Balance

Second Annual Potomac Clay Weekend: April 25 & 26, 2015


#potsinaction hashtag for, well, Pots in Action

#potsinaction ...started by Ayumi Horie

#potsinaction …started by Ayumi Horie

Do you post images on facebook or instagram?  If your images include handmade functional ceramics in use, add the hashtag #potsinaction to be part of a movement to bring the natural usability of functional ceramics into the spotlight.  What is perfectly normal to those of use who use/make/love handmade pots can be a new idea to others…let’s share the love!

And thanks to Ayumi Horie for starting what may or may not be a ‘wave’ of action shots of our personal lives, our handmade pots, the reason we make what we make.

Empty Bowls: Made In China for Corporate Engagement

Strange headline?  Well, yes, I agree.  Many potters donate bowls to Empty Bowls programs, which tend to be benefits where potters donate bowls, restaurants/chefs donate soup and bread, and people make a donation to eat soup out of a bowl that they then keep.  Empty Bowls programs traditionally benefit food banks and other hunger-related programs.

The Capitol Area Food Bank has been a recipient of my bowls for many years, since my time living in DC.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from the CAFB, and this is what it said:

“Hi Joy,

The Capital Area Food Bank is starting an exciting new corporate engagement effort that will expose the work of one lucky artist to thousands across the Washington metro area.

As a way to expand the much loved Empty Bowls concept, we are inviting our top local artisans that we have worked with in the past to submit a design for a bowl that will be entered into the Empty Bowls Challenge.  We will select a winner, which will be mass-produced and then sold to our partners in the corporate community.  Companies will give their employees the chance to purchase a replica of the winning bowl, and the proceeds will go to the food bank.

Would you be interested in submitting a design? Please let me know if this sounds like an opportunity you’d like to get involved with.

Many thanks,

Now, I couldn’t resist responding for clarification, which came back as:

“Thanks for your feedback.  The bowls would be mass produced in China, and the artist would not be paid for their design.

 Let me know if this is helpful information.  I understand your reservations, and I hope to work with you for future Empty Bowls events!



To be clear, CAFB will continue to have artisan-made bowls for their Empty Bowls.  Always have, and hopefully always will.  This is a new initiative, focusing on reaching out to coprorate entities.  (thanks for the clarification by phone, CAFB!)

As for this new initiative, I realize that there are probably ceramic artists who would love to have their work reproduced in China, but I am not one of them. I love to ‘re’-produce my own work.  In my mind, a production potter designs their own form, produces it in large or small runs, and is often paid a ‘wholesale’ price for their work, which then sold retail, whether for a business or for a non-profit.   As an artist potter, I make work in smaller series, but have, on occasion, made larger runs for good reasons.

My work, mass produced in China? No way.  Is my strong reaction old-fashioned?  Am I missing something?  Is there really a benefit here that I am not seeing?  What’s the story here?


Do you have info?

Potomac Clay is always looking for info to get out to the larger community!  Events happening, kilns firing, clay digging, exhibits and openings, supplies for sale, get-togethers of any kind…..

Poetic writings and short stories, great images, feats of wonder….

Send ’em to joybridy (at) yahoo (dot) com

In the studio, tools matter, and make the work what it is....just as your ideas and content will make Potomac Clay sing....

In the studio, tools matter, and make the work what it is….just as your ideas and content will make Potomac Clay sing….

Cusp: 2014-2015

Jane Ping's sawdust fired hand, from the first community sawdust firing at Craftworks at Cool Springs. (Oct 2014)

Jane Ping’s sawdust fired hand, from the first community sawdust firing at Craftworks at Cool Springs. (Oct 2014)

Welcome! Ideas percolate, calendar pages turn, and new ways of keeping in touch begin…..looking forward to linking and connecting, meeting new people and catching up with friends, seeing new places and revisiting old haunts, with clay and the outdoors as our focus.

Looking forward,