Fragments of Light

Epiphanies of Beauty

Light Gatherer, Rudolf Staffel, c.1970. Porcelain with copper wash.
Light Gatherer, Rudolf Staffel, c.1970. Porcelain with copper wash.

My person is in the pot by reason of my shaping hands and my intentionality. Every pot is the result of a decision to modify nature according to what I think, feel, and know. I must take responsibility for my work. The word may be a bit grandiose, but there is an ethic involved in artistic creation, since what I do communicates myself for better or worse to others. — Cecelia David Cunningham, “Craft: Making and Being,” in Art, Creativity and the Sacred, Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ed.

The potter, Cecelis David Cunningham, reflects on the process of making: “It is every artisan’s hope that what is produced will be considered beautiful both in its function and in its being. For the potter who creates the most utilitarian of objects cups, vases. bowls, teapots—there is a constant challenge (and opportunity) to put beauty into work. This is our modest way of reaffirming the beauty of the larger creation. ‘Beauty will save the world,’ says Father Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov, and in that rather large task of world salvation the artist plays a modest but real role: to create epiphanies of beauty in the mundane surroundings of everyday life.”

“It is in the rhythm of my life, the successes and failures of my work, and the constant search for aesthetic perfection that I define myself as a potter and a craftsperson. Is that, in essence, a way of being religious in the world prior to, or in tandem with, my formal religious cornmitments? This is a very hard question to answer, but I do find myself in agreement with the observation of the eminent crafts critic Rose Slivka, who once wrote that serious craftspeople ‘quest for a deeper feeling of presence.’ To that I can only add that the life of art is not only a quest but a communication about the process of the quest for that deeper feeling of presence.”
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