About Once & Future Things

We hear from Silicon Valley moguls that failure is integral to innovation. Why do kids and parents feel defeated when their early works of art don’t look like they could hang in a museum? What’s different about art?

I’m Kirsten Morehead. I believe that art is influential, that everyone can be an artist, and that tolerance for failure and a willingness to persevere through it are vital ingredients to a fulfilled life.

I spent five years teaching art to kids in Tulsa Public Schools. Every day, I saw kids whose personal circumstances felt insurmountable. To them, failure meant they wouldn’t ever have any chance at success: In the school system, the job market, and life.

So much of the narrative around arts education comes from what art can do for the brain and how engagement with music and visual arts enhances standardized test scores. The truth is, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Most of the things around us are the result of mass-produced industrial manufacture. We have no idea whose hands have touched those objects, no notion of the locations around the globe where they were made, and no investment in the humans whose work has shaped every part of our day-to-day experience.

My work as an artisan ceramicist connects me deeply with not only the materials that make up my work but also with the time-honored techniques that give rise to functional and beautiful objects. It also puts me in constant contact with the possibility of failure. Every day, I face the chance that a bowl I’ve made at the wheel or a mug I’ve painted will break in the kiln, fall into pieces on the floor, or in many other ways, fail to exist the way I’d like. When a part does come out as I intended, it’s because of the thousands of hours I’ve spent laboring, experimenting, and perfecting my craft. But my art will never be perfect.

Every handmade ceramic object culminates the artist’s experience in the moment of creation. It represents the artist’s training and craft and the people who came before, whose wisdom has been passed down from generation to generation. It also signifies a wish for the future: that someone’s life is enriched by a beautiful and functional object that can when cared for, withstand the test of time.

This is the foundation of my business, Once and Future Things, where I’m selling not just ceramics but also an experience I want to share with my clients: Their ownership of my pieces connects them with what came before, what’s present, and what’s possible in the future that they see not just the object in front of them but the millions of mistakes that, over millennia, made it possible for that object to exist.

And, more than anything, they feel more inspired by the failures they face in their lives, failures that can be refined and redeemed.