Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Carmel Valley Artists and neighbors

Hello. I'm at the Carmel Valley Artists show on Sunday. They've joined the Talmadge Art Show, so the geography spreads.

If you are interested:

And new pots of course. Some so new I'll be opening the kiln on Saturday.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Humility and Letting Go and Pottery

What heavy duty issues to associate with making pottery! In the February 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Roelof Uys wrote an article about exactly this. He works at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives, UK. Yes, the pottery factory/studio founded by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, the fathers of us all studio potters.

"Humility is the one thing we can teach to all about the art of making objects from earth and fire." Other than the example of better work, I have never thought to learn humility in learning to make pottery. But  I believe him.

In the "factory" part of the Leach Pottery, the making is really shared: "We maintain our standard by working as a team, relying on each other to do assigned tasks with care and consideration. One person will throw the pot, another will trim or handle that same piece, and someone else will glaze it and load it in the kiln." Imagine! Yes, they make standardized pieces for sale from the pottery, and do not so share their individual art pieces. But still, I've never met a potter, that I know of, who would let someone else choose a handle for their pots, or glaze them with a different eye.

In the shared studio where I work, we donate pots for fundraising sales, and sometimes leave these unsigned for anyone to glaze. We have already let them go after the making stage. I never do that, I sign mine to indicate that I want to glaze them, carry them all the way through the process before letting go. And there are people there so attached to their work that they find it difficult to donate their pots. That's extreme attachment.

Once I saw a pot I made in someone else's house, and said, without thinking, "oh, that's mine." No, it's not, it belongs to the people who own it and use it. I still felt it continues to be mine. Ongoing attachment.

They must get over the attachment and holding on, at the Leach Pottery. "One of the greatest revelations in working as part of a team in this extraordinary place is the way it has affected my personal practice. Preconceived ideas are constantly challenged and the immediacy of feedback from peers encourages quick development and forces you to experiment. " Before he worked there, Uys thought "The beautiful simplicity of their forms and the lack of ego with which they approached their work allowed the materials and processes to speak for themselves, producing pots with a sort of carefree swagger but with a mindfulness that always respected the user."

That's worth learning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Playing in the Mud

If you are not a potter, do you know how messy it is to make pottery?

For the past two weeks I've been reclaiming used clay, and I'm not done yet. This is the messiest possible part of the craft, definitely playing in the mud.

When you handbuild,with slabs or coils of clay, it never gets very wet, very muddy. This is the cleanest version of potting.

Throwing clay on a wheel requires the clay be slippery and slide between your hands, so it is always wet at this step. We do call it mud. And throwing is very much my favorite part of the making, other than developing ideas. I like playing in mud.

There is always leftover and reusable clay, pieces cut off a slab as you make the right shapes, throwing mistakes to toss in a bag and reuse later, dry chips from trimming pots to refine their shapes. To reuse it, the leftovers all have to have the same malleable wetness, and be blended into one mass. This is reclaiming. And yes, I've been sloppy and let it wait, and accumulate.

I also have new or reclaimed clay I haven't used in too long, which has just gradually dried in the bag until it is too hard to work well and with pleasure. Reclaiming involves wetting it all, waiting til it is malleable, mixing, drying until it can be wedged and bagged again. So satisfying when done, like a fine collection of nuts squirreled away for winter.  Such a wet mess in process.

I've got 9 types of clay to reclaim. Oof.

It seems necessary to me. If I threw away used clay, I'd never dare make a mistake. In a shared studio, used clay can be reclaimed collectively, with a pugmill to do the heavy work. At home, I do it myself, with hands and water.

Hard work, sore hands when the clay is heavy or hard.

And it messes up your nails.

 But I love the mud --  it's protean, changeable, elemental, responsive and all about hands. I love throwing, and I'm not at all interested in 3-D printing with clay.

I love getting something out of nothing  -- including pots as good as I can make them, made out of scraps and mess.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Deep Lessons of Street Sales

I spent Sunday at Art in the Village, in Carlsbad, offering my pottery to people walking by. It is an art sale on the street, a pleasant Sunday outing. Some passersby were shopping, some were walking their dogs, and everything in between. It did not feel like a situation for deep learning. Of course in some way, every situation can lead to depth and understanding and development. I wasn't expecting it here.

It is a pleasure to offer my pottery to people who like it, even get enthusiastic about it. I knew that, and that pottery is so tactile that I am suspicious of online sales for it. I like craft sale events.

At a sale like this one, I set up tables and shelves and pots, and wait. I am in a very passive stance, as I am not going to hustle you. The whole day is a practice in accepting what comes. Easier of course when you come, and want a pot, than when you walk by chatting and looking elsewhere.  I watch though, notice where people look and what attracts them away from their conversations and dogs. And I hope, so a lack of interest makes for much stronger practice in acceptance.

Some makers are so attached to their work that they do not want to let them go. Pots as children. I love handing mine on, seeing buyers consider and choose and enjoy.

So I had a fine time. Even so, and with lots of happy buyers, I found myself encouraged by frequent sales and discouraged by long times between them. That's another part of the practce: patience,  and not feeling needy for appreciation.

As always, it's easier to enjoy the event when I get what I want, and much more of a lesson when I do not.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Art in the Village

Beat the heat and pay me a visit at Art in the Village in Carlsbad, August 12, on Grand Ave and cross streets. Lots of good stuff to check out, cute downtown Carlsbad and, aah, the beach. And, for me, new pots, of course.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What's the Attraction of Miniatures?

Several years ago, I made some salt bowls, an inch or two across, with tiny spoons. People bought them, more because they were cute, than because they wanted to offer salt or other spices that way.

Cuteness is an attraction in itself. These little things refer to toys, I think, and so to childhood. They fit in a palm, they invite imagination in some way that larger things do not.

Now I've been making tiny vases, two or three inches high, for just a few flowers. No doubt they are cute.

 And something more. I have one on my desk now. It's very engaging, welcoming, friendly. Fits in any small space. Each flower matters. Nothing about it is grand or formal. I notice it.

I found something off putting about people cooing over those salt bowls. But I'm liking the vases very much. We'll see how other people react, the next time I am at a show in August.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Do You Want a Story with your Pot?

I'm struck by all the interest in sharing the story of a pot with the selling of the pot. Etsy suggests to its vendors that we add stories to our shop listings of what we make and offer there for sale. A story about the making, the inspiration, ourselves. They say buyers want to know the maker somewhat. I get it; when you buy a pot, or anything else online, what contact do you have with the maker? And if you like the personal aspects of handmade things, maybe you want touch with the person who made what you choose.

 I visit potters as I travel, and usually buy something as part of a visit. Several years ago, I followed the picture of a wonderful pitcher to the maker, Fran Tristram, in Nottingham, UK. One of those pitchers sat on her crowded kitchen windowsill, a familiar piece of useful equipment. (Can't show you a picture; I bought something smaller to carry home, and she has moved onto other forms.) But the pitcher on the windowsill is a treasured memory, and the pot I bought from her makes the same kind of connection, as a souvenir for me of our meeting. So, yes, the experience adds a layer of knowing and I enjoyed the contact with the potter, but I focus mostly on the pot.

In the October 2016 issue of Ceramics Monthly, there are a couple of articles about potters who collect pottery. Matt Scheimann collects cups, and wants to know his guests' stories: what attracts them to the cups they choose to use from his collection: "the interaction between the user and the pot".

Brian Harper and Tiffany Charbonneau began collecting by trading, and so start with a connection to the other potters from whom they collect." To us, that makes the collection personal and meaningful and acts as a record of our life experience."

The story of the maker or the making is one context which the object carries. It's the usual context for art: what was the artist doing? Art objects are presented as things valued and experienced in themselves, and their scholarly context is mostly about the artist. In contrast, anthropology museums exhibit things from other cultures in their context of use, where they came from. Not so much objects on pedestals, as dioramas of life. More like Schiemann's guests' stories, where choice and use by the owner/user is the relevant context.

Here's the "art object" picture, an object alone, with minimal context (my pot).

There's a move now to display objects for sale with a decorative or imagined background, as if they are in someone's life.

Yes, I have a background in anthropology. Yes, I taught interior design students and pushed them to accept that the owners and users of the places they design want to claim those spaces, put their marks on them, own them. The design eventually belongs to the user, not the designer.

A store or fair booth is a transition between these "ownerships", where I offer my pots to become yours.

Maybe that's my unease with the story being the maker's story.  I call my Etsy shop "Pots to Live With". I want my pottery to end in someone's life, being used, being comfortable. Yes,
the context that matters to me is not the artists', nor the museum visitors', but the users'. Take them home.