Chris Staley is a Distinguished Professor of Art at Penn State University. He was selected to be the Penn State Laureate for 2012-2013. In 2017, he was awarded the University’s Milton Eisenhower Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2021 he received a NCECA Excellence in Teaching Award. Chris was once rejected to all the graduate MFA programs he applied to. However, after attending the Kansas City Art Institute for a year as a special student, he went on to earn his MFA from Alfred University.
Chris has traveled extensively as a visiting artist from Bezalel Academy in Israel to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine. He has received two National Endowment of the Arts Grants. His work is in many collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, as well as friends cupboards. He has served on the Board of Directors at the Archie Bray Foundation, in Helena, Montana and on the Board of Trustees at The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and served as President for NCECA, the National Council of Education for the Ceramic Arts.
The passage of time has always intrigued me. As a young boy, my family moved every two to three years all over the country. This uprooting took its toll. Yet wherever we lived I went outdoors to explore nature’s open fields and woods. It was here that I found a sense of place and tranquility. I would build small dwellings out of sticks and mud. Sometimes I would crawl inside one of these handmade vessels to fell the serenity of being home.
…With the passage of time comes a longer perspective. It is bittersweet to think if only I knew forty years ago what I know now. Truth be told there have been times when I have emotionally felt like the sludge at the bottom of the bucket. But years of experience have taught me that it is from the reclaimed sludge that new ways of being emerge. The creative process not only inspires us to make something, but has the potential to help us understand ourselves.
Years ago, when I was a ceramic student, I was asked, “What are you trying to say with your clay work?” At the time the question left me speechless as if I was still a child sitting alone inside one of my clay huts. As the years have gone by, I would now answer the question by saying “Working with clay is about learning to ask questions that I didn’t know to ask,” like, “How can clay capture the passage of time?”
(excerpt from Touching Time, Jane Hartsook Gallery, Greenwich House Pottery, ©2019 Christopher Staley)