How do you create a library of 62 cups handmade by 54 artists nationwide that anyone from a community of more than 3,000 people can check out?
Just ask Liam Hannan ’18 and Emily Tani-Winegarden ’16.
The St. Olaf College students, along with Studio Art Technician and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Kate Fisher ’00, helped establish the Ron Gallas Cup Library, a lending library of handmade ceramic cups that is available year-round for the St. Olaf community’s use.
They recently spoke about the process of creating the unique library at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference. The annual conference, held in Kansas City, Missouri, marked the 50th anniversary of the organization of potters.
Accomplished ceramic artist and St. Olaf alumnus Sam Chung ’92 introduced the students’ presentation, titled A Cup Library: Engagement Through Tactile Observation. The presentation detailed their effort to provide the St. Olaf community with the experience of using handmade objects through a physical lending library. The library opened last semester and has been popular with students and faculty.
“We presented on the process, on making a logo, and on the logistics — how it was doing and how we plan to sustain it,” Tani-Winegarden says.
The purpose of the presentation was to inspire other students to make cup libraries at their schools. “We want to bridge that gap between artists and people, get them used to and aware of the medium of ceramics,” Tani-Winegarden adds.
Tani-Winegarden and Hannan relished the opportunity to become part of the tightly knit community of ceramists at the conference.
“We know all these artists because we’ve seen their work, but they don’t know us, and for them it’s a big family reunion,” Tani-Winegarden says. “It was so awesome getting to meet people you study and learn about, and put a face to that work. They’re just another normal person, and you feel like you’re their colleague.”
The conference was attended by more than 6,000 people from across the country, making this experience all the more meaningful for Hannan and Tani-Winegarden.
“Everyone has this common interest and has this passion toward the medium that’s not super common,” she says. “It makes you feel part of something bigger.”