Five Questions Salon Edition with Mary K. Baumann

Five Questions Salon Edition with Mary K. Baumann

Mary K. Baumann collection of ceramics 2

Ceramics displayed in the home of Mary K. Baumann

On Thursday, October 24, the American Craft Council Library will present the third session in its five-part fall Salon Series. Partnering with the Northern Clay Center, this "Looking and Learning" Salon brings together acclaimed publishing designer Mary K. Baumann and internationally known ceramist Randy Johnston to discuss ceramic works from their collections and offer some words on where they acquired the objects, their use, and what they do and do not like about them.

In her day job, Baumann and her husband Will Hopkins are the creative directors behind the American Craft Council's very own publication, American Craft. This week, we asked her to take a brief moment away from the magazine design process to answer a few questions about ceramics, collecting, and (of course) books. Here is what she had to say...

How did you first become engaged with ceramics?
I was born on Earth Day, so I have always had a natural affinity with clay. My seminal moment, however, was in 1991 at Yankee Stadium. My husband Will Hopkins and I attended the game (Yankees vs. Twins) with our friend Mark Levine. Mark, a former ACC trustee, had recently returned from Minnesota and a pilgrimage to Warren MacKenzie's ceramic compound. He marveled at Warren's unattended and trusting gallery space, and how one just left a check in exchange for pots taken away. I asked him if that was the same potter that Joan Mondale had studied with. He said, "Yes." I had recently read a story about Joan in the New York Times about how she had gifted some of her handmade pots while in Japan when Walter served as ambassador. On our next visit to Minnesota, Will and I also made a pilgrimage to Warren's, and we became engaged right then and there. We bought many pots for ourselves and as gifts for an upcoming visit to Japan. Our presents of clay works by Warren MacKenzie, Randy Johnston, Jan MacKeachie Johnston, and Guillermo Cuellar were, of course, a big hit. 

What type of ceramic work do you collect and by whom?
I collect primarily functional works that have some sort of unique esthetic interest. I like being able to use ceramic art for a practical purpose. Favorite artists: Maren Kloppmann, Julia Galloway, Sandy Simon, Randy Johnston, Jan MacKeachie Johnston, Ellen Shankin, Mathew Metz, Guillermo Cuellar, Paul Eshelman, Jeff Oesterich, Warren MacKenzie, Mark Pharis, Eric Jensen, and many more.

What drives your fascination with ceramics?
I love the look, feel, and utility of the medium. Ceramics are of the earth, and it helps ground my senses. When I have a hot cup of tea out of a handmade cup, it relieves the stress of modern life. 

How do you think technology has changed the nature of collecting?
One can find, look, and purchase works from wherever you are.

What other things do you collect?
Documentary photography, mostly by photographers who we have worked with at Look and Life magazines. Ceramics pair well visually with photography. Garth Clark once told me that a lot of ceramic collectors also collect photography. I felt justified.

Library Bonus Question: What’s your favorite/most read art or craft book in your personal collection?
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

Five Questions is a brief Q&A about books and craft, with people who love and use the American Craft Council Library.