“Ikigai” is a Japanese word describing a person’s purpose in life — the reason they get out of bed in the morning. In working with clay, I’ve found my ikigai. Using my hands to create something is just part of my natural process of self-reflection, healing and progressing.

As an Asian-American, I am deeply connected to my mother’s culture and the values that were passed down to me through my Japanese heritage. I am also drawn to the American culture and the idea of pure and functional utility found in classic stoneware pieces from the 1800s. In my work, those ideas and cultural connections integrate through use of local material and clay. My faith and experience with the wood fire process add a layer of depth to my work. Finally, I owe much of the development of my skills to my friend and mentor, local ceramicist Richard Rowland, who I’ve worked with and learned from over the last 20 years.

There is a long, ugly history of racism against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, in addition to other people of color. Some of my work iis centered on bringing that to light and are meant to be revelations about my life as an Asian-American. Using my skills as a ceramicist and incorporating my Japanese heritage, as well as my experiences as a person of color, I hope to reflect my understanding of systemic injustice — yet also, the forward movement we can make as a society.

Our hands can do amazing things — let us fill them and use them with intent and purpose, not maliciously.

– Randy McClelland