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Land of 10,000 Stories

Land of 10,000 Stories

Four different cups supporting four different conversations in four towns across Minnesota- Winona, New London, Grand Rapids, and Northfield.

In this project, Land of 10,000 Stories, the Democratic Cup partnered with Northern Clay Center to create cups with Minnesota-based artists and "ambassadors" to address topics specific and relevant to those communities. The conversations took place in the fall of 2018 and culminated in an exhibition at Northern Clay Center during the 2019 NCECA conference in Minneapolis. Cups were exhibited in the space, along with audio of the conversations, and photographs of participants. Conference-goers were invited to have pie and conversation with friends and strangers. 

photo: Peter Leephoto credit: Peter Lee


The four porcelain cups addressed an oil pipeline across indigenous land, affordable housing, identity and values, and mining. Like many parts of the country, Minnesota, known as the "land of nice" has struggled with polarization and divided communities. 

Local organizer, Ursula Hargens says, "In scheduling conversations this past autumn, many individuals contacted were reluctant to sit down and talk to people they disagreed with since they were anxious about inflaming discord within their local communities. A few people cancelled the day of the event. Their reticence revealed an underlying fear present in our current political climate and illustrates the need to create safe spaces for honest discussions between diverse groups. In the community conversations held in each town, participants spoke openly and earnestly about values instilled by their parents, challenges confronting disrespectful language, and the role of fear in political discourse. They discussed the effort required to listen to and empathize with others and the connections made in everyday places, like the hardware store or coffee shop.

Reaching across political and cultural divides is a goal often touted but difficult to achieve. The Democratic Cup: Land of 10,000 Stories provides a vehicle for people to gather in fellowship, break down barriers, and discuss difficult topics in humane and thoughtful ways. It harnesses the power of a ceramic cup to stimulate social engagement." 



We are thankful for the opportunity to work with all our participants! Here are a few testimonials-

"I loved my experience at the Democratic Cup.  We probably could have talked for another 5 hours!  I am very excited to try something like that in our neighborhood working to cross cultural barriers.  Thank you for inviting me."- Kerry

 "I enjoyed participating in the Democratic Cup at NCC. I was nervous in advance that it might be awkward but that soon disappeared. I was so warmly greeted, the goal re the conversation was explained, it was really fun getting to pick out a cup and have coffee and pie so by the time we began our chat I was comfortable and interested in where it might lead. The topic of affordable housing is so top of mind right now especially in the Twin Cities. Housing impacts all aspects of life and is such a struggle in our community. I appreciated your views as a renter whereas I’m primarily personally impacted by property taxes. I felt like I lost myself in the conversation and the time just flew by — no awkwardness at all — and it was an interesting experience being live “on exhibit” where a number of people paused to witness our conversation. When we wrapped up I really felt like I got to know you more personally. That’s what building caring community is all about in my view. I enjoyed my participation and I appreciated NCC hosting the event."- Colleen

"I really enjoyed being put into the democratic cup. I love having in depth conversations and this was one I never would have had without the democratic cup. Every time I look at my mug I think of Marty, the gentleman i was paired with. I am so happy I got the change to meet and talk to someone from a different walk of life." -Katie

Special Thanks!!
Local Organizer- Ursula Hargens
Ambassadors- Lisa Truax, Bill Gossman, Nathan Bray, and Juliane Shibata
Illustrators- Jaime Anderson, Julie Van Grol, Kim Bogeman, and Ry Macarayan
Form Makers- Brett Freund, Peter Jadoonath, Liz Pechacek, and Linda Christianson


Looking for a New SCOTUS Illustration

Looking for a New SCOTUS Illustration
Submit an illustration that addresses a recent SCOTUS (Supreme Court) decision or how justices are chosen (or not chosen). Whether it's "Remember Merrick Garland", Muslim travel ban, gerrymandering or LGBTQ rights cup, we want to see what you've got.
Deadline: July 15
Specs: B&W, 600 dpi jpg or ai, 3.25" x 8" max
Email: thedemocraticcup____@__gmail.com

From Pink Pussy Hat to All Hands On Deck

From Pink Pussy Hat to All Hands On Deck

How can art create the world in which we want to live? 

Watching the success of the pink Pussy Hat project as a way to unite protestors and to speak truth to power was amazing and beautiful to watch. The recipe was perfect- common craft skills, minimal requirements, functionality, and visual appeal. We wondered how we could take a page out of their book and apply it to The Democratic Cup. 

Ceramics, by nature, has a higher bar of entry than fibers. Access to a kiln, specifically, is the greatest challenge in creating a project that can move through creative and motivated groups of people. It hinges on people either having kilns or having access to ceramic artists with kilns. 

Over the last six months, we have learned a lot about accessibility and pots. $60 for a cup in the world of handmade ceramics is a middle of the road price, and yet to the wider public, it was too much when s/h was tacked on. This has limited how wide-reaching this project has been and raised the question of, "what is the deeper mission of TDC?". Is it about the object itself? Is it about the conversation? Is it about connection? Is about inclusivity? 

The answer is that all these matter and at the top of the list is conversation and connection. At the core of pottery is the notion of community and how a simple object can help facilitate a link between two people. Pottery is effective because is operates day in, day out. 

All Hands On Deck is our initiative that aims to get free decals into the hands of ceramic artists all across the country. We're focusing on local ceramic artists and local conversations to drive this effort of driving conversation from social media to person-to-person conversations. 

Both decals address civic literacy, which in the second phase of TDC, is a crucial element in how we want to approach conversation. Given the new policies of Trump's administration, we want to help educate an informed and motivated citizenry. The First Amendment decal, by David Gordon, is a straightforward list of all the rights that the first amendment covers. The Town Hall decal, by Klai Brown, acts as an interactive visual device that can used at town hall meetings with elected leaders. Besides the "agree" and "disagree" signs, we felt it was important to include "listening" as a way to open up a conversation with nuances.

We are excited about the page we have taken from the Pussy Hat project!  If you want to be part of All Hands On Deck, we ask that you have a conversation and post on social media about your conversation or interaction with the tag #thedemocraticcup and by linking to us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.  Send a SASE to The Bright Angle, 207 Coxe Ave, Studio 15, Asheville, NC 28801 or visit us in Portland, OR at NCECA where the Artstream Nomadic Gallery is hosting us in the Expo area. 

The Democratic Cup temporary tattoo

As an added NCECA treat, we'll have our Venn diagram Citizen Ceramics temporary tattoos available! Free! 

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