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Roberto Lugo on The Democratic Cup

Roberto Lugo on The Democratic Cup

It is said that the two things one doesn’t bring up at the dinner table is religion and politics. I believe this is a theory developed after many meals cut short by opposing parties arguing their points. Avoiding unpleasant discussions is just one way to enjoy a peaceful meal. I often consider how one could take the fear of having difficult interactions and confront it by considering ways to engage with others in a way that can be fruitful for everyone involved.

As a person of color working in clay I often find myself at a theoretical table, wanting to have difficult conversations, discussions that seem like important and obvious issues to tackle but to others it is not the first thing they want to discuss; concerns like the lack of racial diversity within the visual arts is not the first priority for my white friends. Not because they don’t care but because it is not their own personal experience. I do find that they are very supportive of my work, my message and of my progress. In my experience I have found that this support comes from their ability to find an experience they have had in order to try to understand where my questions come from.

I have found it difficult during our current election to praise a specific candidate because this endorsement also communicates that you support everything this candidate has done or what they stand for—I would argue that this is the equivalent of bringing up religion to the dinner table. I often think about whether we could focus the conversation on issues that we find important. To not only share our discontent but also what we are about; I decided to participate in The Democratic Cup.

This group of artist represents a diverse perspective on the many issues that we consider when electing a candidates. When someone purchases one of these cups they are decided that not only can we bring up politics at the dinner table but that we can engage with it in a way that allows us as users to ponder the works implications at a time of our day that we are likely to receive information.

As an artist of color I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in this community. One who values my contribution and who invites me to participate in discussions that are not my own personal experience. I chose to include to black female activist (bell hooks and Sojourner Truth) who embody characteristics that I aspire to personify: Fearlessness, and empathy. I ask for your support with this project as it is a great opportunity to welcome relevant material into your home but also it has a direct financial impact to the community that it represents.

Collaboration between Roberto Lugo and Kristen Kieffer.
bell hooks and Sojourner Truth cup

Makers Making Social Change

Makers Making Social Change

After months of organizing artists, drawing images, and designing forms, we're about to launch a shop which will feature the first twelve cups. Some of the cups are collaborations between pairs of artists, other cups are singular.

What binds us all together is a belief that what we do as artists can affect positive change in the world. We believe that countering the racist and fear-mongering language around this year's election is an imperative that we can not in good conscience ignore and that using our skills as makers and illustrators will make the world a better place by opening up dialogue.

Co-organizing The Democratic Cup are Ayumi Horie in Maine and Nick Moen in North Carolina. The drawing and organizational aspects have been headed up by Ayumi and Nick has tackled the fabrication of the cups. Because of the distance and the visual decisions that need to be made, we've been using Hangout to meet. Here, Shannon and Ayumi fit print outs of the decals to the cups. 

Nick has been making molds all summer of cups that have been designed by ten of the best ceramic artists in the country. The cups will be slipcast from a mid-range translucent porcelain body. They'll feel great in the hand and be ready for all of you who want to use them to open a conversation with a friend or a stranger. 


The Power of a Cup

The Power of a Cup

We chose a cup to be the form to represent this project because a cup or mug is an object that can easily become a part of your personal identity. Think about the mug that you have on your desk at work, or the first thing you grab in the morning for your tea or coffee. A cup is made for drinking, and if drinking is part of your daily ritual, you start to form a relationship with your cup. It’s the friend that will always be there in the morning.
-Nick Moen

Why a cup? Why create a fundraiser based around one kind of object?

Because it's intimate, because it's accessible, because it's iconically American, and because around a cup conversations begin. 

The symbolism of what can happen through and over a simple cup of coffee is important to us as makers. There is a power in the way that object can catalyze a conversation and get us talking to those nearby. We want these objects to open up questions between people who agree and those that don't, because part of our problem as a country is that we're not talking to people who don't agree with us. We want these cups to both breakdown silos and inspire people to do something for the common good. 

The cup is the most democratic of objects and is the ceramic workhorse of both the kitchen and the office. We are constantly interacting with the cup and through use, the cup asks us to ponder and sometimes to change how we think and feel. We pick it up and feel it's weight, we wash its insides, and we put it somewhere safe on a shelf. Because it is often a comfort to us, this object enters our psyche in a way that rarely happens with other objects. 

I hope that the cups being made for The Democratic Cup project will be meaningful to those who own them and touch those who use them. Ceramic objects can last thousands of years and I hope that the good they do lasts long after this presidential election. 
-Ayumi Horie


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