Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Floating Pots!

That's what I'm after.

Last weekend I participated in playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. I am reminded that the most moving parts of the piece, for me, are the spots where the solo melody floats light and high, way above a simple, thin accompaniment. That barely tethered lightness is the thing.

My favorite flowers float on long stems above the leaves and shimmer in the wind. Like the local ubiquitous weed, oxalis. It's beautiful right now.

And those are the pots I want to make, with that quality. Is that a contradiction? Clay is earth, not air, and heavy. But it is also completely flexible, and can make forms that look light. I've been working on literal lightness, less weight. Getting there, though not with every pot. I'll focus on making shapes that lift and wave. I've got a few.

This has some of the right feel, but a bit chunky.

Do these cups look light? They weigh very little, so I think so, but if may be more feel than appearance. That's ok. I want both.

What makes that effect? A narrow base, which is hard on balance. Maybe just not a solid footring. A spreading form? Thin walls. Simplicity. Not too much precision or geometry. This will be pure pleasure to explore.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Street Pots

In the latest Ceramics Monthly, there are 2 articles about little mobile shops for pottery.

 One, by Andrea Denniston, describes her hand built trailer for exhibit space, meant to drive and set up easily at craft shows or anywhere. It's lovely, and evidently, very effective.

The other shows an urban version, even smaller. Frank Saliani built two "art carts" on wheels, small enough to push around city sidewalks and take on the subway. He considers them outreach tools, as much as places for sales, and sets them up on the street and in parks in New York.

What is so charming about these mini-galleries?

They are tiny, and have all the attraction of cuteness. But the work by both potters is not cute; it is elegant, and so there is more quality than that.

The displays are beautiful.

The idea of easy and obvious mobility attracts me. It suggests that any place people gather may be a place to present pottery, and that I might not need to search out organized sales. It's a kind of freedom.

My experience in selling my pots is opposite, though. Well-established sales where people come to buy seem to be most effective selling points for me. In setting up my displays, I go for a maximum of display space, worrying that the piece I have no space to show might be just the one that attracts a passing person.  And I have a lot of mess to hide under the tables at a sale: the bubble wrap and bins in which I've brought the pots, extra pots, bags, display supplies. Like living in a tiny home, selling in a tiny space requires stripped down gear and neatness. How do they do it?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Striped Pots!

I'm really liking this stripy stuff.

 Officially it's agate clay. It's so casual, and variable, and unpredictable, it needs a casual name: stripy stuff. You wedge together partly several colors of similar clay, and make pots on the wheel from it. The clays blend and spiral as clay always does on the wheel, but you can see it happening. With enough trimming, scraping, sanding of the throwing slip, the colors show up separately on the pot. I've just been using a dark and a white stoneware for this and getting blond and brunette variants. With stains to color white clays, you can have all sorts of color mixes. That's a mess to make, and, I think, can easily become garish.

I think I prefer a more even clay mix than that, but it's interesting.

It's OK with a clear glaze, but definitely wonderful unglazed.

Dark, or light.

And the stronger color contrast, the better. Do I prefer blonds?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

This is from Barb Johnson at Chrysalis Pottery, forwarded to me by someone else.  I really like it, and wish it to you potters for this new year. And their equivalent to all others who work with our hands.

Hands and hearts seem to me close together. I love working with my hands. So far I have not been able to include housework in the pleasures of working with my hands, but maybe I'll get there too. Hands are our original tools and it pleases me especially when they prove to be the best pottery tool for a task. I do plan pots before and as I make them, but there is always a part of the process that goes through some path other than my intention. From heart to hand, bypassing brain?

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do We Own Pottery?

I'm thinking of violins, and other string instruments.

 If they are not broken or burned, they last for hundreds of years. We own them legally of course, buy them for money, insure them as property. But it doesn't feel like ownership really. We live with our instruments and are responsible for them. They pass through our hands and lives and on to others'. They outlast generations of us, we hand them on through chains of players. Good instruments gain in value, as they are played, or as antiques. They have their own histories and paths through time, far longer than ours. Maybe we belong to them.

So what about pots?

 They are much more "domestic", lower valued except for museum quality pieces. But they can have the same characteristic independence by longevity.  We hand on the family china to our children if they let us. We use these pots, connecting to their history with us. And then the material lasts for thousands of years. Unbroken, pots outlast memories, use, cultures; they become art or archeological artifacts,carrying different information to later people.

What does it mean to own things with "lives" of their own?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Like These!

Here's something new. It's not often a new idea works out this well, first try.

A wonderful glaze for texture, brown when it's thin and streaky tan when thicker. And I love the leafy pattern.

We've used these plates several times and find they are easy to wash, despite the texture.

And, no, the first time is not perfect; they warped in the firing. I made these just from a slab set in a plate as mold. I like thin pots, so these were thin slabs, and sagged.  I'll try again, raising the rim on the wheel, and hope it will have more structural strength. Here's a reminder that there is always more to invent and to learn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Are You the Potter Who is Giving Cups Away?

For a few months I have been making and giving away cups, in response to Ehren Tool's long-term project of making cups for/with veterans. He makes them with images from soldiers' combat memories and gives them away.  He is up to some 14000. I have made maybe 25, carved with a ubiquitous statement of his: peace is the only adequate war memorial.

 Just starting, and beginning to learn how people react to the offer of a cup. Besides giving cups to family and friends, I have offered them at 2 craft sales.

Most people seem to need an explanation, of the cup, or of the offer. They do not stand alone as a cup, a message, or an offer. Usually people want an answer to "why are you offering these?" Perhaps, in the context of selling, the gift is too odd to accept easily.

Some people have felt guilty at accepting something free, and have bought another pot from me, out of guilt rather than liking. I don't get it.

One woman returned later, having gone to her car to bring me a return gift, a lovely small book of Buddhist advice which she kept in the car for her use. I think that's fellow-feeling, not guilt. I appreciate it; I read it.

One man stayed to tell me at length what he does to support veterans. I'm very pleased; it was not at all clear to me that my project would be seen as supportive of anyone. 

So cups lead to conversation, and that seems to me a fine thing. Someone really did come by my booth at a sale, several hours after the cups were taken, to ask if I am the potter who is giving cups away. In some way these cups are an invitation to expand on the offer, to continue with whatever attracts people to them. I am reminded of one of the pleasures and products of these sales, an openness for me and the customers to what comes up, an availability, an invitation. It's not just selling, and not just the "stuff". I started making and offering cups because Tool's message and project spoke to me. Now I am seeing them attract other people in their own ways.