October 10, has been officially designated the Global Day of Clay. To celebrate, the Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) in Rosendale will be launching something altogether new and daring: the WSW Mug Library!
The Mug Library functions the same way a traditional book library does: Borrowers get the chance to take a mug home, use it for a week and then return it for others to enjoy. Two dozen talented potters have each generously donated a special handcrafted mug that will be available for anyone in the local community to borrow. “It is something we have been looking forward to doing for a number of years, and the response from the participating artists is fantastic,” says Ruth McKinney Burket, manager of the Ceramic Studio at WSW.
The aim of the experiment is to cultivate appreciation for well-crafted pots and give participants an enriching personal and social experience. “One of the reasons we have created the Mug Library is for people who don’t typically use handmade pottery to get a feel for the special experience that it is (even at the risk of things being broken). We wanted to make this experience available to everyone — even those who may not be able to afford to purchase the cups. And for those who can afford it, we hope that the experience will make them realize the value of having handmade pottery at home, and hopefully be more inclined to support potters and buy their work.”
As to that risk factor, even natural-born klutzes are invited to try out the new service. “We want people to take responsibility, but we don’t want people to be afraid of borrowing the cups,” McKinney Burket explains. “All of us that work in functional ceramics do it with the intention that people would use our work. I have given some of my pottery to friends as a gift, and they tell me they keep it on a shelf as decoration and don’t use it in order to not break it. This is something that always saddens me (even though I know they do it out of appreciation for the work I do). The pots don’t truly come alive until they are being used; the work is incomplete. If we were simply making decorative objects, we would be sculptors or painters.”
A preview of the Library will be included in the exhibition opening and Slide Night at WSW on Tuesday, October 9 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. On Wednesday, October 10, the Global Day of Clay, the Library will be “open for business” and the borrowing can begin. The Mug Library will live within the WSW gallery, displayed on a custom-made shelving unit. Each mug will be housed within its own handmade box, which doubles as a safe means of transport when the mug is borrowed. Each box has a place to record the name of the borrower and is stamped with the date of return on its “library card.” Every participant signs out the mug and commits to return it in a timely manner.
“Printed on the outside of the boxes that house the cups are instructions for the borrowers,” McKinney Burket notes. “The part of the instructions that deal specifically with damage to the mugs reads as follows: ‘7. If the mug is returned late, lost or broken, please consider a meaningful contribution to the Mug Library. (Options include purchasing a new mug for our Library from the artist, or helping dust the shelves or straighten the mugs in the Library).’”
There is also an element of exchange, as each borrower is prompted to return the mug with a contribution in the form of a question, poem, inspiring quote or drawing. These contributions will be used in a future project or exhibition.
If this risk/benefit analysis balances out to your liking, stop by the Women’s Studio Workshop at 722 Binnewater Lane in Rosendale during the Mug Library Grand Opening between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 10, or anytime during regular WSW hours thereafter. Admission is free. To view photos of some of the mugs on offer, visit www.flickr.com/photos/wsworkshop/sets/72157701728822215. To learn more about the Mug Library, the two new exhibitions opening on October 9 — Bhavna Mehta’s “My Father’s Letter” and Claire Joyce’s “Consider the Alternative” — and other WSW programming, visit https://wsworkshop.org.