​JULIE GUSTAFSON-MCNELIS

life is my hobby.

There's a Zen story in which a professor visited a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. When the visitor's cup was full, the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup and over the table. "The cup is full!" said the professor. "No more will go in!" "Like this cup," said the master, "You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

 

YOU ARE A SPECIAL CUP.

People laugh when I tell them the title of my work: You are a special cup. They also find my obsession with making cups peculiar. It is peculiar. Cups are very symbolic to me. Even though I have some good solid training in art, it was never my real gift, and when I discovered my deeper gift, I became the therapist and spiritualist that I am today. In psychology, there is a concept called "container" and it's exactly as it sounds: you are a container. You are a container for your own feelings and sometimes you are the container for feelings of others. Your very being is the vessel for your mind, your spirit, your world. In a manner of speaking, you're a cup. You are a special, one of a kind cup. I get into some overly existential thinking about cups. Take the liquid that fills a cup, for example. If you dip a cup into the ocean and fill it with water, is the water separate from the ocean, or is the ocean in the cup? You pour the water back into the ocean and it is the ocean. We're like a cup and we're like ocean water in a cup... all interconnected. The cups I make are an architecture of this interconnectedness. In Buddhism this interconnectedness is also called emptiness. The cup is merely a shape that wraps around an emptiness we fill with liquid. Without this emptiness, a cup is not a cup.

 

In today's world of spectacle, I love the real intimacy of a cup. Especially a one of kind, non manufactured cup. We take for granted how often we're feeling-up cups. We don't notice their weight, balance, design-- they just work. Maybe it's a Supersize Big Gulp or maybe a special mug from a loved one. Cups are one of our everyday so-what-objects, taken for granted, the way we take for granted our interconnectedness with one another. I like these cups because, like us, they are each one of a kind containers. I know that's cheesy, but I'm less naive now. I understand that cheesy is good! I like the cheesiness of these cups. I like that these cups do not have handles and their tangibility lets your hand know that a beverage hot. I like that you can throw one of my cups onto concrete and it will smash into pieces and make a great sound. I appreciate the Greatness in these simple things.

I started ceramics very early in life. My sister and I would take the hard, California clay soil and shape it into mud pies. In art school, I abandoned ceramics and moved toward photography and conceptual art. Ceramics was something I shunned as too prosaic and a cheesy, craft-based art form. I was in college. I was idealistic. I was naive. Somehow my child self, playing in the mud, understood something deeper... some direct connection with the earth. I was so optimistic that I could bake the mud pies in the sun. Now, I'm so happy that I can bake mud pies in a kiln.

THANK YOU.