In my cupboard is a cup, passed down through the generations, made special by its function, practice, and tradition. In many ways it is quite ordinary, created by hand, an every-day vessel which has captured memories and family blessings. Used only once a week to hold wine for the Sabbath Kiddush*, it is the notion of intentionally assigning meaning to this cup which has given it perpetual significance.

I am at the outset, making vessels that are traditionally functional, and hoping some of my work is used for ritual. Working mainly in porcelain and white stoneware I paint the surface in my imagination simultaneously while creating the pot, using a tool or my thumb at that moment to commit to the finished look I will later complete with glazing.

Through use we give meaning to vessels both humble and holy. My work currently aims to address humility and utility. Heritage, family, and a learned design concept of “form follows function” are ever present in my work, along with visual memories of my walks through museums. I’m influenced by Picasso’s work from his Blue and Rose periods when he painted realism. This work reminds me that fundamental forms and shapes are required foundations of any work. In Cubism, Neo-Classicism and onward, Picasso over time presented all the sides of an object in motion. This drives me to envision pushing boundaries in my own work past traditional functional, to a notion of a 4th dimension, with a recognition of the innate and timeless sanctity that is present in all things, including functional pottery.

The user transforms the mundane functional pot into something significant through the power of thought and intent, thus altering the perceived status of the vessel without changing it at all. Any cup can be one’s Kiddush cup to which each of us assigns meaning that sustains ourselves, our family, and our soul.

* the Kiddush is sanctification prayer over wine marking the day of rest in the Jewish tradition




Pottery Teacher at The Art School at Old Church and Ridgewood Community School

Alisen Herman