As a purely functional necessity, handmade ceramic vessels have been rendered nearly obsolete with the advent of mass market vessels with superior material quality, functionality, and accessibility. Conceptual demands routinely push function to the side in a search for new meanings, and the handmade hasn't convincingly asserted itself as virtuous per se. In American ceramics, this fact, among others, has led to an amazingly rich plurality of artistic conceptions and epistemologies, despite the portrayal of ceramics in popular media (see Mary CB’s ‘The New “It” Potters’). This variety of ideas appears to me as evidence for the embrace of a particular popular nihilism that willfully denies any attempt to define what pots should be. 
     A common criticism leveraged against the field is that ceramic artists need some unified theory to stake out our claim in the cannon of art history. From Ian Anderson/’s “What is Ceramics Is”. “By articulating a vision for what ceramics is, by clearly staking out positions instead of serving everyone at the table, ceramics can continue to grow, contribute, and survive. This is critical, for without some culling, ceramics will dissolve under its own widening flood.” (see also Garth Clark “Envy”). I’m not convinced. 
     I think this is the reality of the American functional studio artist: to rage against both obsolescence and codification, to experience persistent failures and never perfection, and to continually find new meanings in the defiance of utility while adhering to a functional archetype. The functional artist emerges from this muck of ideas as a type of anti-hero: an artist, mostly unconcerned with the conceptual authorities of critics or Artists. I see acolytes in the school of dedication to personal ethos: “Futilitarian Heros”. Indeed, there is a sort of meaning to be found in the lack of a particular one and it is in this absurd confusion that the contemporary functional pot becomes all the more powerful and fascinating. An embrace of futility isn't always seen, (although examples are ubiquitous), but optimism persists despite the outside perception that a lack of unity is a death sentence for craft and art alike.