Cathy Akers

My series of porcelain vases, Home Free Home, is inspired by the photographs and personal stories of residents of Morningstar and Wheeler’s Ranches, two short-lived but influential communes located in Sonoma County, California, in the 1960s and ’70s. Both communes possess extensive archives and I was inspired to re-purpose the archival text and images to explore the experiences of women and children, who were often devalued in countercultural communal life, since most communes were founded and led by larger-than-life men. As a vessel traditionally associated with women and domestic life, but that was also employed as a storytelling instrument during Greek and Roman times, I thought the vase was a fitting form for this project. By inscribing the women’s and children’s stories directly into the clay of the vases, as well as fusing their photographic images into the surface of the vases, I hope to ensure that their stories are heard.

The Kid Pack (2017), Porcelain, photocopy transfer, underglaze, acrylic paint, 9.5(H) x 9 (W) x 8 (L) in.

“Sometimes, when we kids were bored, we took off into the woods with the clothes on our backs and maybe a pack of graham crackers. We lived on wild carrots and watercress, small birds, squirrels and sometimes moles. They were easy to catch if we hadn’t taken one of the .22s with us. We killed them, cleaned them, and toasted them on sticks over the campfire.”


Kids ‘n’ Drugs (2017), Porcelain, photocopy transfer, underglaze, 9 (H) x 13.5 (W) x 9.5 (L) in.

“Since we didn’t have TV or go to school, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Any drug that was available I was willing to try. Anytime we got a hit of acid or two, we would split it up. The big kids (10 or older) could have half a hit and the little kids (5 to 7) could only have a quarter hit. There were several years where I was using some substance daily. Horse tranquilizers, pot hash. mushrooms, peyote, acid and cocaine–and that was all before I was 12.”


Women’s Lib (2017), Porcelain, photocopy transfer, underglaze, 13(H) x 6.5 (W) x 6.5 (L) in.

“Living at Morningstar, I realized for the first time that I could be free. Maybe I wasn’t free yet–most women on the Ranch had boyfriends or husbands who expected us to fulfill our ‘womanly’ duties–but I saw that freedom was possible.”