Panopoly Creations

The “Green” Scene

I want to direct you all to this wonderful entry in Diana Fayt’s one black bird blog. The article, written by Laura Zindel of Zindel Ceramics, includes information from various professional ceramicists about whether or not ceramics are eco-friendly. This is kind of a hot topic at the moment, and I think it’s also something about which people not familiar with the process of making ceramics could be easily confused.

To give my two cents on the issue:

I find it a little deceptive and opportunistic for people to label ceramics as “eco-friendly” without explaining the hows and whys of the word. It’s taking advantage of a current buzzword and not being particularly accurate.

Silica is an essential element in ceramics. It’s also damaging to your lungs when inhaled. People have compared it to asbestos in that regard. There are ways to minimize this health risk but not to eliminate it. Firing ceramics does use a significant amount of energy and does produce potentially toxic fumes. If precautions are followed, these fumes shouldn’t actually harm anyone, but the risk is still there. The materials used in glaze are often commercially mined, which can damage the environment, as can the clay digging practiced by commercial clay suppliers.

On the other hand, however, ceramics (and here I’m talking about handmade ceramics, NOT industrial ceramics, because I don’t know much about them) are much more friendly to the environment than many other things, including many other artforms, are. Our materials come almost entirely from nature–clay, elements, metals, water, etc. Fired ceramics are not disposable one-time use items, and even if they were broken or thrown away, they wouldn’t damage the environment at all. Nonfired ceramics can almost always be recycled into new wet clay. Ceramics fired in an electric kiln, such as the one I use, don’t cause harmful emissions and are relatively energy-efficient. It is possible to construct virtually any type of ceramic item without using any gas or electric tools, so the construction process is also energy-friendly. I have also met people who have used their ceramics skills to build ceramic homes that are ridiculously beautiful, affordable, and eco-friendly by way of their minimal impact on the landscape.

I would argue that most supposedly eco-friendly items are still damaging to the environment in some ways, and that, at least, ceramicists tend to have a good awareness of their impact on the environment. So I guess I’m saying that ceramics may not be eco-friendly, but they are eco-conscious.

I actually found that original article while doing some research into whether or not my products are vegan-friendly. I am of course aware that since I’m not a vegan it’d be pretty hypocritical of me to label my products as vegan, but I would also like to have said products be available to a variety of consumers, and I know that vegans are often concerned about buying products that they are not sure uphold their values.

So, are my products vegan-friendly? I think so, to the degree that any product could be considered vegan. It’s quite possible that during the mining process to acquire my materials, animals’ lives may be harmed or compromised. I don’t know. I do know that the materials I use are not derived from animals, and that once the materials are in my hands, no animals are harmed. I vent my kiln in such a way that animals can’t be harmed by the fumes, and I dispose of my glazes properly. If anyone knows why a ceramic product would not be vegan, please let me know.

More rings are going into the kiln tonight! Whee!