The town is sacked. Silver and gold, even bronze, are beaten into crude billets to be hauled off and melted. Houses burned, prisoners taken, or not. And in the wreckage: bones, stones, and pot-sherds. Clay’s low material intrinsic value and fragility, paradoxically, make it endure as one of the most compelling records of the human touch on the earth. The bottom of the ovoid jug is marked by the potter’s two-hundred-year-old fingerprints, just as the earth’s strata are uniquely marked in clay fragments by all the peoples who struggled here to endure. Where will my pots end up? In the landfills with the busted bikes and lawnmowers and all the other cheaply made or quickly obsolete techno-junk—in the giant middens of our endless desires? No matter. I am glad to leave a record of my own touch in this most receptive, fragile, and enduring material.
Mark Shapiro has made wood-fired functional pots in Western Massachusetts for the past 25 years. He is frequent workshop leader, lecturer, panelist, curator, writer, and mentor to a half-dozen former apprentices. His interviews of Karen Karnes, Michael Simon, Paulus Berensohn, and Sergei Isupov are in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution and he is editor of A Chosen Path: the Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes (University of North Carolina Press 2010) that accompanies a traveling retrospective. His own work was featured in the 4th World Ceramics Biennale in Icheon, Korea, and is in many public collections, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Mint Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the International Museum of Ceramic Art, the Racine Art Museum, and the Currier Museum. He is represented by the Ferrin and Lacoste galleries.