A podcast about community ceramics and clay as a force for good. Clay Commons is a six-part podcast hosted by artist and educator Eva Masterman, co-produced by AiAi Studios. Each episode presents conversations with teachers, artists and activists, all using clay as a tool to build community. Focusing on the UK and America, Clay Commons explores the rise of a diverse movement of community ceramic practices, and investigates how clay can play a central role in creating alternative solutions to arts education and new systems of value in society.
Episode 6: Clay Work
In conclusion to the first season of Clay Commons, we hear again from some of the contributors of other episodes, as well as a few new voices. We’ve heard a lot about the issues facing individuals and the ceramics discipline at large, and in this episode we go a bit deeper into potential solutions and how this work can feed out into the wider society and change our education systems.
Clay Commons has just scratched the surface of what community ceramic spaces and artists have to offer the education space and other sectors such as care and health, immigration, human rights and even law and policy making. Episode six aims to draw some of these strands together, taking another look at clay as a transformative, identity building tool, and generally hammering home the message of clay as a force for good!
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this episode:
Simeon Featherstone Make@ Story Gardens @makeatstorygarden @simeonfeatherstone https://simeonfeatherstone.co.ukShaya Ishaq Artist @shyshaya https://www.shayaishaq.com Gerald Brown Clay Siblings @geraldbrownart https://www.claysiblingsproject.org Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis The Portland Inn Project @theportlandinnprojectcic https://www.theportlandinnproject.com Yinka Orafidiya Artist @crafting.community https://www.yinkaorafidiya.com Carolina Rubio MacWright Touching Ground (NYC) @touchinglandorg Jack Tan Artist @jackkytan
Episode 5: Accountability and Racial Equity
We’re already over a year post the murder of George Floyd, and the global reckoning this atrocious act sparked, but really, how much can we say has changed? This podcast has taken a while to come out, so we’re not as up-to-date as we could be, however, the issues we speak about in this episode are long standing, and universal. Ceramics, especially in the UK, is often the territory of the white middle classes, and we have a long way to go in the discipline before we can call ourselves an equitable, access-for-all type of field. The UK has the added excuse of that good old ‘we’re not racist’ report that the government brought out in March 2021, and centuries of profiting from a colonialism that operated with the human cost of slavery happening largely in other countries. There’s a culture in Britain of ignoring the difficult questions and our particular brand of racism is more insidious than the out there in your face type that is more likely found in America. Perhaps because of this, as with the open studio model, the US ceramic field is slightly further on than us when discussing access, institutional racism and the self organised networks that have sprung up to combat it.
I speak exclusively to artists from America for this episode, and we hear from some truly inspiring ceramic artists who are challenging institutional models in education, gallery and beyond to create more equitable spaces and communities for and by artists of colour.
Yinka Orafidiya @crafting.community https://www.yinkaorafidiya.com
Gerald Brown @geraldbrownart @claysiblings https://www.claysiblingsproject.org
The Color Network @thecolornetwork https://www.thecolornetwork.org
Octavia Butler (any of them!)
Caste: The Lies That Divide Us by Isabel Wilkerson
White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour by Ruby Hamad
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
teaching to transgress by bell hooks
Do Better by Rachel Ricketts
Why I'm Not Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge
Hear to Slay podcast on Luminary
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
Executive Producer and Editor Aiwan Obinyan
Editing and Production AiAi Studios
Supported by Subject Specialist Network at York Art Gallery, Arts Council England and Newcastle University
Artwork by Kelly Jade
Episode 4: Combating Mindsets of Decline
In Episode 4, we’re meeting some amazing people who are literally transforming lives in very real and tangible ways. It might seem ludicrous to think that a previously incarcerated person, or an undocumented immigrant, or someone forced to use foodbanks to feed their children might have any use for clay, but we meet people in this episode who prove otherwise. Going back to America, we hear from two incredible projects, The People’s Pottery Project and Touching Land. The PPP is a pottery studio run by and for previously incarcerated women, trans and non-binary people; one of their founders, Ilka Perkins, tells us of her experience in the prison system and how clay has changed her life. Touching Land is an inspiring project in Brooklyn run by Carolina Rubio MacWright, using clay to teach undocumented immigrants their legal rights. In the UK, we look at two projects, The New Linthorpe Pottery and The Portland Inn Project, that have centred clay as a way to support refugees, create community and literally rebuild what was one of the poorest streets in the U.K. This episode was full of inspiring stories, I hope you enjoy it!
There’s so much out there but these few were ones that really helped me:
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle Book by Angela Y Davis Angela Davis is great any day of the week
- Forensic Architecture are really challenging how art and political commentary meet
- Abolitionist Futures blew my mind. So much on their website and if you can sign in for one of their reading groups, I highly recommend. https://abolitionistfutures.com/resources
- Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers' Rights Book by Juno Mac and Molly Smith. Not specifically about abolition, but really interesting manifesto on the intersections of national boarder control, the prison industrial complex, women's rights and immigration.
Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis
Carolina Rubio MacWright
Episode 3: Body Soul and Mind
Episode 3 is out and we’re delving deeper into the role of the artist in society, and specifically clay as a tool to support those in mental health crisis, with disability and those effected by dementia. There’s a long history of art therapy and I’m sure plenty of science to back up what we, as artists working with vulnerable communities, witness – that clay and the arts are good for the soul and integral to a wholehearted life. It can even be life saving.
I’m not and do not pretend to be a medical professional or to have any training in social care, and most of the amazing artists I speak to in this episode are just that – artists, not medical professionals! However, what we have to offer this sector is something truly amazing, and with the right support, something transformational can happen. Dementia sufferers can learn new skills, people who’ve experienced trauma can reconnect to the world, and those with disabilities can improve their quality of life. There’s some really uplifting stories and testimonials in this episode, and hopefully some new ideas and proof that we’d all be better off with clay and art as a central column of our life.
Brigit Connolly https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/brigit-connolly/
Janna Edwards 15 Days in Clay www.15daysinclay.co.uk
Helen Lee @helenleeceramics
Katie Spragg @katie_spragg_ceram and Janine Nelson @gardenmuseum
Episode 2: Open Studio
Leading on from themes of education and the decline in university courses in Episode One, Episode Two looks at alternatives to formal education and the rise of open studios and independent art schools. We meet some of the leading pottery studios in the UK who are challenging traditional economic models and providing university standard training for a wide demographic of people. Setting this against a wider movement of alternative art schools that have started to pop up in the wake of rising course fees, we also discuss the role of the artist in society and hop over to America to meet The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, to hear about the responsibility of ceramic studios to 'move well' into areas in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way for both the organisation and the communities they're working with.
A shout out here as well because I only managed to speak to an all white cast for this episode and there’s some amazing initiatives that are foregrounding Black and Brown histories and art practices and decentring the dominant white washing of the art world and education at large. Absolutely look up, support and go educate yourselves at
Black Blossoms @blackblossoms.online
Mudbelly Teaches @mudbellyceramics
Pot LA @pot_LA
…to name but a few doing this incredible work!
Contributors to Episode Two:
Stuart Carey @thekilnrooms, Mark Essen @modern_clay,
Polly Brannan @openschooleast, Jennifer Zwilling @theclaystudiophl
Episode 1: After-School Special
In Episode 1 we ask the question: where has all the clay gone? In the UK, we've gone from a kiln in every school and over 30 BA specialist courses to just 2 in the space of about 30 years. Speaking to veteran educators who have lived through this decline in HE education, we track the reasons for this against rising course fees and the general shifts in university models, and discuss what this means for the discipline.
Far from going quietly into the night, however, clay has never been more popular, with a huge rise in community and adult education spaces opening across the UK. We ask what is community ceramics, where has it come from and how the impact of popularist TV show The Great British Thrown Down has changed the landscape of who and how people access clay education.
Contributors to Episode One:
Duncan Hooson @claygroundcollective
Christie Brown @xienbrownceramics
Ingrid Murphy @ingridamurphy
Tony Quinn @confederacy_of_dunces
Rich Miller @richmillerpots
Kate Malone @Kate_malone_cermaics
Jack Tan @jackkytan
Clay Commons was written, narrated and produced by Eva Masterman
Executive Producer and editing by Aiwan Obinyan, edited and produced by AiAi Studios @aiai.studios
Artwork by Kelly Jade @crouchingbean
The Subject Specialist Network at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA),York Art Gallery
Arts Council England