A New Book: Living with Potttery | Justine Riley | Episode 628

A New Book: Living with Potttery | Justine Riley | Episode 628

Justine Riley | Episode 628

A New Book: Living with Potttery | Justine Riley | Episode 628

Justine Riley is an artist exploring with thread, clay, paper, poetry, and books. Justine lives in the last house on a country road with her husband and son. Justine artistic path began in Florida when Justine signed up for a ceramics class at the local community college. There Justine met Josh, fell in love with pottery, and found the clay community. A few years later Justine and Josh moved to Kentucky, where they now have home studios, chickens, a garden and a creek where their son digs for rocks.


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Is the legacy  that was handed down to you critical for you and do you see it as a foundation for the rest of your life?

Yeah, but it is from looking back, right?  We kind of know those things when we look back on them. I remember as a teenager and young in y twenties I din’t see the value in my grandfather and in college and him putting that money towards that, just because it wasn’t my upbringing and I wasn’t the typical student but now look back at it, it was because of that decision he made and I decided to try it out. So those two things. And what that looks like in his life, I will never get that story from him, like when he decided to do that and what made him to decide to do that. But going forward it brought me to the ceramic studio which is where I met Josh, my husband and then that’s when we decided to move to Kentucky, where his family is from.

I have a book called A Tree is Nice that was in my family and if you pick up that book and you pick up Living with Pottery, it’s not like I copied that book but it was where part of the inspiration came from.Living with Pottery lays out these wonderful things about living with pots. I mean it’s a book of celebration really, and A Tree is Nice is a book of celebration of trees.   And I have that book somehow because my great-grandmother gave it to my uncle and then maybe my mom got it and then I got it or something like that.

Writing is capturing your thoughts and leaving it for someone else to be able to look into your mind. How do you see writing as a legacy?

I have heard a lot of writers say, I don’t know what I think about it until I write about it.  I am feeling that more and more. I think that a similar thing is true for all artists even though it is mostly ceramists that listen to this, any art, you kind of do that to find out more about yourself. So the writing that I do, I am trying to find out more about myself and then through that it can sometimes become universal and then other people can find out more about themselves and it speaks to their story. I think where art really is powerful is where it starts with curiosity and then there is a whole bunch of discovery and a lot of failure in there. And then sometimes the art brings about connection. When I read a my book to a friend of mine, right away she told me a story of her daughter and right away, it brought tears to my eyes. I thought I was sharing about my experiences but in her it brought up the story of when her daughter was young. I think that is the kind of legacy we should be trying to leave.

Someone said, life is best lived in service to others and I think that helps to capture the idea of legacy, that there is a service to others. Even when we make functional ware that is service to others, when we write a book, when we raise a child that is in service to others. How do you see that?

Well definitely with pots. We live with a lot of different pots in our cupboard, which we have open cupboards so we can see them all. And it is really nice to have those gifts from different artists. They don’t know that I am using this particular mug this morning or that I am going to serve asparagus  on their platter. But to be in service of others, yeah, it is a life long pursuit. I am definitely not there yet.

It seems like one unfiltered comment online can stick with you because the internet never forgets. How important it is for integrity to be maintained?

Yeah, and that is a tricky thing to because a comment can be taken out of context. Well lately I have been sharing a lot more on Instagram I have been sharing poetry which I really hesitated to do before. I think partly because it was sharing more of myself and just taking pictures of beautiful things in the world. I am not really afraid of criticism. I know some people do not want to put their art out into the world because of how it will be received. I am just a little bit afraid, in poetry I try to show my true self, there is a lot of integrity there and I struggle with that. I feel like you just have to put it out there because if you don’t people might not know about it.

So it sounds like you are saying it takes a risk on your part.

Yeah, because art also exposes you and art comes through more than just the mind. There is a spiritual side to creativity for sure and to put that out there it can be frightening but I also think it is important. Through writing my book I realized it is not going to be art unless I share it with someone. If I am just in my closet all day, making stuff and not showing anyone, then it’s not really art. It’s about that connection. And when I first starting writing some poetry, it’s strange, the poem didn’t feel complete unless I read it to someone.

How do you see your upcoming book as a legacy?

Oh, well, I hope it will outlive me. Then it could be a legacy. I read it to a friend of mine, we were in college together, both in the ceramic studio and I read it one day when we ran into each other at the library and it brought tears to her eyes. Those are the kind of books I like to read to my son. So I hope that does that for potters.

What is your favorite tool?

My favorite tool is my notebook. I was kind of a rebel in college and I was like, What is the point of keeping a sketchbook?  I didn’t understand why anyone would do that. So I also make sketchbooks and I first starting writing stuff in them when I was writing about my son. And now it has turned into a practice where I write everything in that sketchbook, pictures, ideas, whatever. And to be able to go back and look at that and find threads and take it with you, and be able to capture ideas, yeah. That’s definitely my favorite tool.


Gathering Moss by Robin Kimmerer

Living with Pottery by Justine Riley



Instagram: @sketchjournalrecord

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