Social Ceramics is a project that attempts to make visible to students they ways in which they can use functional, wheel-thrown objects to engage with their audience, build community and address issues of sociability and social justice.  Some might call it the conceptual side of functional pottery, other might not care what we call it, and instead to examine how our objects function in the world of material culture.

In Social Ceramics students are asked to develop and produce a series of functional objects and deploy them as a vehicle for exploring “human relations and their social context.”   Students may elect to work in teams, collaborate with the community, or may choose to find their own singular method of engaging with others.  Research into social science will help deepen their thinking around the project.  The project is conceived, researched, fabricated and then enacted and documented.  Documentation of the project is presented for final critique.


  • To become familiar with production strategies for multiple wheel thrown objects.
  • Understand how to design work for a particular set of people and circumstances, rather than a generalized “anybody.”
  • Use research to help develop your ideas and push yourself further.
  • Think about strategies for “displaying” functional work that goes beyond the default of the autonomous “white cube.”
  • Find effective way to document your work that goes beyond the well-lit grey backdrop photograph.
  • Practice presenting your work to others.

Student Activities

  1. Select, research and study a facet of human relations and/or social context that matters to you.  Be sincere, don’t worry about being smart.
  2. Devise a way to illuminate or create social connections  of your chosen group through a series of objects that is the equivalent to the labor of producing thirty cups.
  3. Figure out how to promote and “deliver” the objects and actions so that the audience and users understand how to get involved.
  4. Stage your event, and figure out how best to document it.
  5. Present your project at critique with all necessary ephemera.


Your project should be properly ambitious, generous, and take you outside of your comfort zone.  A specific viewpoint or focused topic of inquiry will help generate a conceptually interesting project. To help you with this, you must seek properly academic sources to help you deepen your thinking on your chosen topic/community.  Your production should be the equivalent of 30 cups worth of production, and the objects you make must properly perform their intended function.  Think about how you will contextualize your project before, during and after it happens.  As you “deliver” your objects, or interact with people, or form your community, you must document this interaction and present it to class in the form of a five-minute presentation.

  1.  Thorough research, planning, and proposal                       15
  2. Properly ambitious production (30 cups)                     20
  3. Appropriate relationship between form & function        10
  4. Fully developed “delivery” strategies                              10
  5. Complete documentation of the project                         20    
  6. Conceptually interesting illumination of “the social”      15
  7. Effective presentation of the project                               10

                                                                                                      Total :  100

Resources and inspirations:

Readings for Teachers and Graduate Students