Crafting Gentleness

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pottery and the Ancient Life: A Conversation with Michael Miller

By Richard Whittaker

"I met Michael Miller through John Toki. He called me one day around noon and said, "Richard, there’s a guy giving a presentation to my class who I think you’d like. I know this is late notice. He’ll be here in an hour. Any chance you can make it?" I did make it.

"Here’s a brief note Toki wrote about this potter from Louisiana: Michael Miller’s first slide at his lecture on the wood kiln firing process at the California College of the Arts Ceramics Department was of a tent. I thought it was a unique first image for a slide lecture. More than a tent, this was Michael’s home, proudly shown, while he built his ceramic studio—a man truly living off the land, building his studio with secondhand materials with the help of his friends. He even collected water from the sky in a catch basin. Michael Miller reminded me of Ishi the Indian hunter and gatherer, loin cloth and all, who wandered into the modern world by chance. During his lecture, Miller made us question who we are, what we have, and what we need to survive on this earth. His lecture was about more than the fire from the wood kiln chimney, but about the fire in his heart and the life style he leads. I reminded my students that the lesson here is, "be resourceful and live your dream". "


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