Pete Pinnell knows vessels.

With more than 35 years as a practicing artist and probably close to 100 columns for Clay Times Magazine, Pinnell was a natural choice to jury Pewabic’s On the Rocks: An Exhibition of Vessels for & Related to Drinking.

On the Rocks opens with a reception 7-9 PM Jan. 19 at Pewabic. Preceding the reception, Pinnell presents “The Art of Drinking,” a lecture that details the customs and rituals surrounding drinking, at 6 p.m. at the College for Creative Studies’ Anderson Auditorium.

Jurying was an opportunity to see current stylistic trends, says Pinnell, who has exhibited his own pottery in more than 120 exhibitions across the globe since 1995. Artists from as far as Singapore submitted nearly 500 works to Pewabic’s call for entry late last year. Pinnell ultimately selected more than 200 to be part of the cash-and-carry show. One trend Pinnell noticed was a return to the reverence of craftsmanship.

“I enjoyed the breadth of the work across all applicants. There was a lot of variation among all of the objects that were entered,” says Pinnell, professor of ceramics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The general level of craftsmanship was high and personal expression was very high across the board. There was a lot of interesting specificity to each work.”

The variations submitted reminded Pinnell just how broad the subject of drinking is. Among other pieces, accepted work includes cups, mugs, goblets, flasks, teapots, and pour-over systems.

“On one hand drinking seems like something fairly simple and straightforward, but it encompasses so many traditions and practices,” says Pinnell. “It’s so varied in terms of its importance to ordinary drinking to times that are meaningful and special. I think that’s reflected in the work and the personal expressions of those that applied.”

Pinnell appreciated having the wide scope of seeing as many as five examples from each artist, enabling a wider understanding of an artist’s abilities and style.

“Overall I think the quality of the work was quite high. I think people who see the show are going to be very pleased. I have a suspicion that things are going to walk out the door very quickly,” estimates Pinnell. “People interested in buying things are going to come early. I think the prices seem very reasonable.”

Pinnell urges those who didn’t make it into the show not to feel bad.

“I think a different juror on a different day would have made different selections,” says Pinnell, adding that however impartial, inevitably taste plays a role, so people shouldn’t take things too much to heart.

“Art-making is a lifelong pursuit and the cool thing about art is that you can continue to get better at it your entire life right up to the point you stop making art or die,” says Pinnell. “What you make today is no indicator that there isn’t going to be a masterpiece. Keep making and keep trying to get better.”

Katie Bosley, White Double-Walled Cup, 2017, porcelain

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