Tuesday, February 13, 2018

And the Next Step...

Ideas develop for me, in steps.

I've been making  these heart-shaped bowls.

They started as a form, a modification of round bowls. Very quickly, though, I thought one could be an anniversary present. For that, the bowl needs some surface to write on and to read easily, perhaps a flattened rim. And a color contrast for text and background. Realizing any idea brings up its new requirements. And there are always many possible solutions (carve the text? paint it? What tools make text legible and attractive?). So far it's this:

And what next? Do I want to make them for other people? As wedding gifts? Anniversary gifts? Birth gifts? Celebration of any other love?

And what other requirements will that set up? A deadline, since these celebrate a date. Extra bowls with no use, as I usually make more than one of any special order piece (because "things" go wrong).

It's an exploration, always.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

From the Circle to ?

Wheel-thrown pottery starts round.

At least that is the intention. Not always successful.

Ouch, the flange on the lid of this mug or the mug rim warped so they do not fit together.

 After a while, many potters find roundness a bit boring or over-predictable, and look for ways to modify that form. I am still looking for smooth and simple shapes, and so mostly modify the rim of my pots. The latest are heart shapes, at least as seen from the top.

From other angles, they produce all sorts of odd forms. Even better.

I've tried other distortions of the round in the past.

Just a spout on a mixing bowl for pouring.

A carved rim.

A squared circle.

Or a squashed circle and added parts to make something else.

All are fun and some please me a lot, but the hearts have something special about them. Maybe it's the other shapes that the modified rim produces in the rest of the bowl. Maybe the added potential is in the symbolic meanings of the form.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Calming Pottery

No, I doubt pottery is ever anxious. But it may calm people. Someone walking by said my freshly thrown heart-shaped bowls are calming. I love that; hadn't thought I want to make calming pots, but yes, I do. Among the adjectives I am choosing : graceful, floating ...  calming fits wonderfully. It's partly a look, partly a feel.

Other people whose work I love make wonderfully calming pots. Look at Noel Bailey's work, from the December Ceramics Monthly.

Calming is not boring. Bailey's pots are described:

"Each modulating, sloping edge confidently works to suggest a natural shape or form from his immediate environment. The apparent simplicity of his altered forms yields an abundance of complexity to journey through repeatedly in an unhurried state of mind. Just be with it. Slowing down is good. Notice more. In looking carefully at his pieces, viewers are bound to become more alert and mindful. "

There is enough going on to reward attention, quietly, with subtlety. Not simple, but calming.

This article writes about responses to the look of these pots. I have only seen pictures, but I expect they also feel attractive, complex, and calm to the hand.  Oh, yes.

And if you are interested in technical aspects of what he does, look at this way of loading platters in a kiln, to direct the flow of melted glaze.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eva Zeisel

 I am reading On Design, by Eva Zeisel. Partly I read it for a bit of design education, something I have never really had, and lack.

Mostly I read it because she is my hero.

 I like her work, especially these soft, warm, curvy styles.

In herself, she is Ms Mid-Century, an influential product designer and teacher for decades of the 20th century. She encouraged her Pratt pottery students into competitions and into industrial work, in other words, into modern ceramics work.

And she is a wonderful model for daring and doing. She died in 2011, at age 105, working creatively almost all the way. She made her own path through life.

She grew up in an eminent scholarly family, and turned to art. Wanting a practical art to make a living, she learned pottery. In her cultural environment, handwork and practical craft could not have been much valued. My father grew up in a similar context; I've got a feel for this. He also would have loved to do more with his hands, but went, respectably into science and music.

 For adventure and opportunity, she moved from Hungary to the Soviet  Union, and made a career success, in a new country and language. Yes, she spent time there in prison. With her major scholar husband, she came to the US as a refugee from Hitler. She is quoted, in a video about her, saying about that time: "We were never poor; we just had no money." True: they had education, contacts, past successes, confidence, adaptability. But such courage and will.

Her son, John Zeisel, was an important teacher of mine, so I feel a personal connection to her. I'm finding it a pleasure, just to write about her.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Local Clay

A few weeks ago I visited Bob Deane, a potter in Media, PA. Among other choices, he uses clay he digs out of the local creek beds, takes home, cleans, blends, compresses. It's lots more work than buying a prepared box of a chosen clay body. But he likes it, finds it something special.

"Art, life, breathing is all about connection. Going down to the creeks I played at as child and digging clay feels so right, so connected to my childhood, to the earth, to the river. "

I have heard about and thought about using local clay (though I've never even stopped at the Pottery Canyon Park). I've been in a couple of ancient potting villages in the south of France, where people have dug and used local clay since the Neolithic. But I still buy prepared clay bodies I like.

I bought a little pinch pot from Deane, made of this Media clay. I find it special too. I have not lived there as an adult, had not even visited for many years, but it connects me to home too. It's a very simple thing, a bit rough, glazed with a rather forceful pair of glazes he likes, like a rock. It feels good in the hand.

 It sits peacefully on the desk. And here is the earth of my childhood, in my hand too.

Monday, November 27, 2017

December Nights

This will be the biggest, longest, wildest show I've ever participated in. It's San Diego's city Christmas festival, all over central Balboa Park. Everything is open, plus art sale plus performances plus food.

I'll be in the Artisans' Marketplace part of it, near the Botanical Gardens, the lath house.

December 1, 3 to 11 PM; Dec 2, 10 AM to 11 PM

Come by, sing me a carol, take over my booth and give me a break.

I haven't made these silly fish in several years. They are fun again. Use one as a soap dish, or to hold paperclips on your desk, or? Credit for the design to Reiko Campbell.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

" Fine Craftmanship is Attention to Every Detail."

I'm not sure who I am quoting, but it sticks in my head. To me it means pay more attention, take it slow enough to finish every step and detail. That's difficult. It's a version of the general difficult and very good goal: do less better.

Last weekend seemed focused entirely on this message.  I went to a concert by Richard Goode (marvelous pianist). I'm sure he attended to every note as he prepared the music he played; certainly he seemed always to know where the music should go and how to express what he heard in it.

I also went to the San Diego Potters' Guild show. Such a range of work in the same medium, all of it functional pottery. I saw everything from marvels to pots I don't even want to look at. Even if they are beautifully well made, and though I very much care about pottery, some of it is just far from my taste. I find taste fascinatingly variable. I'm sure it is something separate from quality.

For lessons in fine craftsmanship, I always look at Ellen Fager's and Merle Lambeth's work at these shows.  Have a look at the members section of sandiegopottersguild.org.

While you are at it, may I show you my new favorite potters there? Evan Lopez and Michael Ridge. And my perennial favorite, Roberta Klein. That's my taste. You, looking through the same set of web pages, might be attracted to entirely different work.

Maybe fine craftsmanship is necessary but not sufficient to make something attractive. Or maybe it is not even necessary. I have been working towards making light-weight pots, and I am pleased that I am mostly there.  But some of the pots I picked up at this show were really heavy. Is that a flaw? A matter of taste?