She’s Here Again with Her Second Book | Sunshine Cobb | Episode 818

Sunshine Cobb | Episode 818

Sunshine Cobb’s new book, The Beginners Guide to Hand Building,  has been a labor of love during the past year, and she can’t wait to share it with you. Sunshine is back on The Potters Cast to talk about her new book, but strangely enough, we end up talking about widening our lane to make the fuller life we want to live.


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Why beginners? Why would you want to focus on helping beginners move further down the road or even start down the road?

Kind of like I said, a creative practice is important to the well being of our lives and our emotional growth, so I think for me beginners…It’s so funny because I don’t actually get to pick the title of either of the books, they are kind of given to me as a format. So the truth is I think the book is for everybody. To me, I learned a lot writing it and I would consider myself an advanced student. But I think the way people frame themselves as a beginner you are able to make lots of mistakes and I think there is a joy and a freedom that can be in that beginner model where, I am just going to start out. And for me it’s like learning how to cook. I want to be able to start and finish an object or have objects that have termination points that are very clear for folks that have limited time. That’s what people who have limited studio access, they can have limited time. So for me that was part of writing this book was making objects that could be parceled out into different sections of time. That’s for me, the allure of writing this book, making it accessible and enticing.

You said you tried to use the book to confront your own prejudices and I’m curious , do you like making coffee pour overs now?

I would not say that I like making coffee pour overs now. (laughing) But I would say that’s the only one, the match strikers, or the scoops, or the little sculpture animals, I feel like I learned a lot in the process. Coffee is one of those things, you are never going to change how people like to make their coffee. You are just not going to be able to, but if they are into pour overs and that is their jam then we can contribute something to that as artists.

You mentioned there might be a sense of elitism in the academic world toward functional work. Do you think that was something you caught or something that you were taught? 

Well, I think in theory this is…you get a master’s degree and it’s a terminal degree, I think you can feel pretty fancy. I think that’s something you can do, you think, I have worked really hard these number of years and I am accomplished. I think there can be a self-importance that comes from that experience. I think what I have found is that initially right when you get out of school can be the most elitism feeling that you can have and some people maintain that and hold on to that. I think that sometimes comes from the idea that I am an Artist, with a capital A kind of mentality. I think it comes from a desire of, that you want to be seen as important, or valuable, or educated and so I think we can get lost in that sometimes in the academic side of things. I have just found in my journey in teaching, that everyone has something to offer, your seventy year old student or your sixteen year old student. Everybody has something to teach me in that circumstance and I think to decide the only people to be taken seriously are people with MFA degrees is short-sighted. That’s not where I want to be anyways. (laughter)

You are an amazing artist and ceramicist and you make work that people all over the world want to have. Why do you teach?

It’s kind of funny, when I first started walking on the road of getting a ceramics degree I thought I might want to teach. That’s seemed like the logical place for the education to take me. And then what happened was not that. (laughter) But what did come from my journey was teaching workshops. I have taught university in different places. The truth is I don’t like myself as a university teacher. I kind of become a mean mom. I say things like, Why are you eating your lunch in the studio? etc. So I tend to like workshops a little better. But mostly because the people there are interested in the skills I have and want to grow their own skills. So there is something in that that has propelled me forward.

Why the move to Montana?
So the move was really personal as far as California…I had gone there and set up a studio, I had a whole fundraising thing, and I really invested in being there and I was incredible lonely. I was so unhappy. It just didn’t quite workout. It was a situation where I kind of had to realize that my life had changed, I had moved back to California after my life had changed and so I didn’t have the support group and the people that I thought I had.  I was willing to go to San Francisco and Napa and cruise around the state  to see people and with the ceramic career I was travelling all the time. So when I was home I just wanted to be home and I didn’t really want to drive places to see people. So the move to Montana was inspired by the fact that three or four of my studio mates ended up settling here and a really good friend that used to work with me, so I have five or six really good friends in this one place in the world. I needed more community and moved to be closer to friends and it’s worked!


The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Building by Sunshine Cobb 


Instagram: @shinygbird

Angelia S. Rico

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