Body As Vessel - Chris Staley, Penn State Laureate 2012-2013

Uploaded by ArtsandArch on 24.09.2012


Today I'd like to talk to you about the relationship between
pots and our own bodies, and the vessel and the body.
And I think that all the parts of a pot are actually named
after the human body, from the foot of the pot to the belly
to the shoulder to the lip to the skin of the pot.
The pot can even inhale and exhale.
So there's this intimate connection between, and I
think that intimate connection comes because, historically,
we'd store food and water in the vessel, and we obviously
digest food and water.
Probably the first vessel ever made was our hands cupped
together to drink water out of a pool of water.
And it was about 10,000 years ago that probably the first
pots were fired and began to be made.
In keeping with the body parts and how they relate to pots, I
think the most expressive feature on our
face are our eyes.
Probably the second most expressive
feature is our mouth.
And with pots, too, when you make handles, in this case I
think they definitely refer to eyes.
So they become a real focal point, just as
they do on our face.
Also, too, our senses engage things in so many different
ways, and this idea of smell and taste and the difference
between smell and taste and how smell is really
We go outside and we don't know what we're going to end
up smelling.
It could be road kill at the side the road.
Whereas taste, something that we put in our mouth, is far
more discerning.
Hence that phrase comes, "that person has good taste." It's very
discerned, discretionary.
And then lastly, this power of the inside and outside, I've
always found it fascinating.
The saliva is perfectly comfortable in my mouth now,
but if I were to spit in a cup and then actually think about
drinking that saliva, there's something
repugnant about that.
So that whole sense of interior and
exterior is very powerful.
So pots, when you make them, I think the strongest pots are
the ones that have that sense of breathing, of contraction
and expansion.
And here I'll just swell this pot out.
It's filling up with very air, if you will.
I think on this one I'm just going to take this mark and
put this line on the side.
And it's almost like putting ribs in the side of a pot.
But you get that real sense of something on the inside
pushing out, or interior and exterior.
We never really know what's on the inside of something, just
the way our interior character is hidden and we
have this mystery or enigma of inside and outside.
And I'll never forget, in grad school one of my teachers
said, "the answers lie inside your pot, Chris."
And I was such a jug head in grad school, I thought, maybe
I need to stick my head in the pot to see what's going on.
But I think he was talking metaphorically, that inside
our pots lie the thoughts and feelings, as they do in our
body, in terms of what we end up making.
But sometimes a potter will actually literally cut a pot
down to see what's on the inside, and just see the shape
of the pot.

I didn't expect it to fall.