Missy McCormick and Bill Adams moved to Poland, OH a few years ago. Missy is a ceramics professor at Youngstown State University. Bill is taking a respite from an eighteen-year career in insurance to be stay-at-home dad with their three-year-old son, Ash. Bill has been doing a variety of volunteer work, much related to cycling, in anticipation of shifting his career to the non-profit sector in a few years. The family hosted me on my first night in Ohio. Like many families with young children, we talked in sequence. Missy and I chatted while Ash played with us in the yard, Bill and spoke later while Missy was putting Ash to bed.
How will we live tomorrow?
Ceramics is historically, a craft-based material. Missy teaches students how to use the wheel, but also how to use 3-D printers. There is a relationship between the two processes, but also fundamental differences.
“Craft is often a lower priority in our world. Yet the more we get away from it, the more people crave it. The more digital we become, the more drive we have for craft-based work.” From Missy’s perspective, ceramics are materials that not only span time, but also application. “We can print out a new knee, an exact fit to your bone structure, or we can throw a cup by hand.
“We are trying to rediscover authenticity in our lives. Not just in craft, but in society.” Missy and I discussed a variety of people we knew who were undergoing gender reorientation. She sees that as an extension of the search for authenticity. “Transgender people, gay marriage, these signify that people are tired of having to conform. Society is becoming more inclusive. Not for all, not all at once, but it is moving in that direction.”
I asked Missy about the maker movement, which others had mentioned as a positive step toward tomorrow. She does not share that enthusiasm. In her work with 3-D printing, it is not an intuitive process; it is technically challenging and abstract. Making something on a 3-D printer is not the same as making it be hand. “There’s a silent process when you work directly with materials that allows you to think and solve with your hands.”
When it was bedtime for Ash, Bill joined me. Bill is an avid cyclist. For five of six years early in his career he didn’t have a car. “People thought I’d lost my license; like DUI. They never considered that I chose not to have a car.”
He is concerned about America’s focus on economic activity above all else. “I don’t need to know the stock market activity every hour, yet it’s presented as important news. Everything in this country has a dollar value. In Europe, life is an experience. Here, it’s an accumulation.”
As the clear night sky drew dark, we shared stories of cycling at night, something I love to do at home, where I’m comfortable with my routes. Bill told about riding home at midnight from a second shift job on a cold winter night, hard but exhilarating riding. “Many people don’t appreciate how amazing that is. We’re always avoiding the cold, the rain, any unpleasantness. When you’re always trying to be comfortable, you don’t do much.”