When I reflect on my many years of work as a studio potter, I realize it has changed dramatically. The way I think about my work has also changed. My work as a potter, though extremely enjoyable is not the totality of who I am. I do not sacrifice everything to its advancement and I never want to become so consumed by it that I cannot hold it in a healthy context.
I am first an individual striving to be more deeply human.
If someone asks me what I do for a living I reply I am a potter, but I am much more than that. My family is the most important thing to me, and making pottery is a very satisfying way to provide for them.
My work as a potter is very important. What I mean by that is art is important in the world. Even more important than art are artists.
We think differently.
Art is the culmination of the creative mind.
Creativity is spirit filled and the more art there is in the world the more artists there will be, and the more spirit filled the world becomes.
-- Danny Meisinger
I was born in Topeka Kansas and grew up not far from Kansas City, in a small town called Gardner—it is there that I began my work as a potter. A scheduling conflict in high school landed me in a ceramics class where, a knack for form, a belief I could do anything, and a willingness to fail repeatedly were all I needed to excel with clay. Several years after graduating high school in 1984, I came to a point where I had no idea what to do with my future, so I decided to take a ceramics class at the local community college. I then went to the University of Kansas to study ceramics. There, working ten to twelve hour days I learned it all, so I thought.
While I was at KU, I married my wife Diana and with the news I would soon be a father, decided to leave KU after only one year. I spent the summer building my studio and a two chamber wood kiln. In the fall of 1989 I began making pots professionally. I learned very quickly how little I knew, and had no idea what to make or how to sell my work—I had never even been to an art fair.
Those first years were tough, but it was through those years that I found my greatest teachers: the clay itself, and the process. The relentless honesty of the clay always and still placidly demands no less than the absolute, while the process whispers in my ear, “slow down and you will get more accomplished.”
Once I started to listen to these teachers, things started to come together. When I left KU I could throw a three-foot tall pot, but I could not pull a decent handle on a mug. So I spent the first ten years focusing on mostly functional work, while still producing large pieces. I had two wheels at the time and one always had a big pot turning on it while I was cranking out small work. It felt good to see 100 mugs on a shelf all the same size and form—I began to see my forms evolve over time. During this period I picked up some wholesale accounts and started going to art fairs—both were another learning curve.
By the time I reached my early thirties, I was making some nice forms and I did well at the art fairs. I found that my small functional pieces sold well in the street, but the larger pieces did not. Of course, my work was evolving in the direction of the larger sculptural forms, so art fairs became a lot more work than fun. I built eleven different displays in a fifteen-year span, trying to present the work better as it grew in scale. Finally the hard work paid off. I was able to have some success and I felt as though I was achieving what I had set out to do. Ironically as all this was taking place, I was thinking of making a change in my work.
In 2010 I began building a studio at my own home and I promised with the move I would make different work. It took 5 years to make my first pots there. Over those 5 years I started experimenting with atmospheric firing as well as cone 6 oxidation. In 2014 my wife and I took over the gallery that had been a family business and my newest change, I started teaching classes in my studio. All of this has been a lot to digest.
I have taught workshops for many years which I love doing but it is like preaching to the choir. I decided after seeing the direction our narcissistic society is heading, at the same rate as the decline in arts, I should do my part to help right the ship. Art is important in the world but even more important are artists. We think differently and more people need to think like artists. It is spirit filled. So I have beginners next to veteran potters in the studio learning how to move through the process that clay is.
Working in the studio right now is thrilling as well as somewhat tenuous. After 30 years one would think I would have things figured out. Looking forward all I see is growth and change. Armed with my knack for form, my belief I can do anything, and my willingness to still fail repeatedly, I move forward.
“Whether I feel joy or pain when I look at my work, it is those feelings that drive me forward and develop me as a potter and an artist.”
-- Danny Meisinger