I don’t remember how it started, but one day I found myself giving all my dishes away and replacing them with handmade pottery. Not the kind people pay through the nose for – those beautiful, professional pieces made by skilled artisans – but the pieces people tend to make in high school right before dropping art class and diving head first into marriage.
Suddenly, somehow, factory-made dishes were no longer good enough for my standard pressboard apartment cupboards.
I’ll admit, I went a little nuts. I raided every D.I., Savers, and Salvation Army in a 100-mile radius and looted them of every halfway decent pottery piece I could find. My husband, who had been quite supportive at first, became a little wary. "Where are you going to put all this stuff?" he said cautiously, eyeing the growing mass of amateur masterpieces on the dining room table. "I’ll just stick them in the hutch," I said, gleefully emptying plastic thrift-store bags of their newspaper-wrapped treasures.
Alas, there was not enough room in the hutch for my collection, and soon enough, creatively-stacked, mismatched pottery pieces had colonized the countertops and tables, and every flat surface they could find. Still, I could not stop raiding D.I. two or three times every week for whatever pieces might still be lurking among the distasteful machine-produced junk. I rid all the factory stuff and filled my cabinets with pottery. Eventually, every piece found a home.
I guess that one day I just became dissatisfied with the cold, unfeeling, artless manner of mass production. As an amateur artist myself, I love to create a "personality" in my pieces that can’t be replicated anywhere else. A simple cup of tea presented in an earthen piece somehow is more stress-reducing to me than the same tea served in a dollar store coffee mug.
Perhaps handmade pottery just reminds me of the perfection people still strive for that often turns out not so perfect, but more beautiful than if it had. Sometimes it sits a little crooked, and maybe the top isn’t exactly symmetrical, but it’s as beautiful as the hands of the artist who created it.
Humanity is often remembered more for its failures and atrocities rather than its omnipresent serendipitous beauty.
When we get down to the simpler things, like home cooking or gardening, and those things that take skill and dedication, I think that’s where we find whom we are. Mass production seems to take the humanity out of art and replace it with stacks and stacks of drab, perfectly uniform plates and saucers.
I’ll take my wobbly, off-color teacup any day.