Friars Attend Lecture with Chris Staley


If you have ever had Ms. Plows for ceramics, you know all about the legendary Chris Staley. Chris Staley is one of her heroes, and she utilizes many of his valuable lessons and writings in her own teaching styles.  On Tuesday, February 19, a group of Malvern ceramic students attended a lecture presented by Staley at Penn State Great Valley.

Mr. Staley is a Distinguished Professor of Art at Penn State University, and the school’s University Laureate this year. The Penn State Laureate is a full-time faculty member who is assigned half-time to serve as the University Laureate for one academic year.  The Laureate’s job, according to the program’s website, is to bring an enhanced level of social, cultural, artistic and human perspective and awareness to a broad array of audiences.

In school, Staley loved the idea that students could play with mud during class time, so he took his imagination and creativity to the ceramics studio. He remembered playing with mud as a kid, so seeing kids do the same during school piqued his curiosity. Little did he know that he would end up doing that for the rest of his life, and become one of the greatest ceramists of his generation.

On February 19, Staley presented a seminar titled “Art and Life: Where They Intersect.” He spoke about how art fits into the bigger picture of life, and how many invaluable lessons comes from this intersection. Staley provoked us with a question, “How do we adapt to this changing world, and how does this changing world adapt to who we are?” We live in a time of changes with the 21st century taking over our lives in almost all aspects. Technology changes every day, our world changes every second, but how does creativity and the arts fit into all of these changes?

Staley spent some time speaking about his work. He believes that “emotions channel into our work” and ceramics “freezes a story, and can be inspired by everything and anything.” You can learn a lot by someone’s artwork, for it brings out their creativity and often will be a way for them to express their emotions and interests. He noted that, “the only inhibitor to the creativity process is fear,” and that we should never be afraid to express our own creative selves and our talents.

Staley once considered whether he would rather have his work in the kitchen or the living room. In the kitchen, your work is used and touched every day, but in the living room, your work is displayed simply for adoration and appreciation. He wonders why it can’t be both. It’s not always about the practicality and usefulness, it’s about the creativity and uniqueness.

Staley spoke of so much more than just his artwork and techniques. He believes that in order to master something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. In his life, he has spent over 100,000 hours working with clay and teaching. He spends so much time with ceramics because it is his passion and he does what he loves. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, you just have to use your talents to do what you love. Technology today continues to make our world simpler and faster, but we must never lose this touch with the arts. Creativity and imagination are two important aspects that we should never lose as humans, for technology makes the world run quicker, but art makes the world more beautiful.

After the speech, the Empty Bowls junior and senior chairs had the opportunity to speak with Staley, and he promised another handmade bowl for our next Empty Bowls in 2014. Visit the Friar’s Lantern to check out Chris Staley’s series of videos produced for the Laureate program this year.