Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pottery Really Lasts!

I make pottery for the making, but it's worth noticing the frighteningly long history my pots have after that point. The stuff really lasts.

Once fired, clay pieces can break, but  are impervious to almost everything else. Highfired, glazed pieces, especially, are tough.

Because it is so variable, traditional, and lasting, archeologists use pottery for location and dating information, to identify peoples and eras, trade and migration. You can dig up pieces of pots in an archeological site, recognize the materials and style of the pots, and know that people at your site were in touch with the makers of those pots in some way.

There's an article in a recent Ceramics Monthly about a 9th century shipwreck, full, among other things, of marvelous Chinese ceramics on their way to the Middle East or Europe. Hard on the people involved; great for us, a nasty commonplace in archeology. Finds from the shipwreck shed new light on a lot of the East-West trade, and on Chinese ceramic production of the time.

Many of those pots are still whole, but their current value doesn't require that at all. For the information we can glean from them, broken pots are just as useful. For Edmund de Waal (The White Road),the ground outside Jingdezhen, China, full of broken porcelain bits, is almost sacred ground, a marvel. Jindezhen is where porcelain was perhaps invented for the first time, certainly where it was made in mind-numbing quantity 1000 years ago.

There's an extra responsibility in making something that lasts so long after it leaves my hand. As long as the pot is whole, it continues usable, for function, hand and eye. After that, it still continues, and maybe of some use.

So, what is my responsibility to this depth of time?

First, don't make junk.
Second, don't keep weak, flawed, badly designed pieces.
 I tend to keep, and offer for sale, "seconds", and some people prefer them as stronger evidence of hand work than more symmetrical or neater pieces. But should they be let out into the world to last forever?

Until pots are fired, the clay can be  recycled, and the pot is truly gone. After that, it's here. It seems important, now, the choice to put a piece into that first firing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ehren Tool, take 2

Since I discovered Ehren Tool's work, I've been much moved by his always quoted comment: "Peace is the only adequate war memorial." Have we completely forgotten about that?

Finally I have a response, that does not make peace, but maybe carries on the conversation. I'm making cups with this statement on them, and giving them away, copying Tool. Want one?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

And the Talmadge Art Show

And I'll be at the Talmadge Art Show  on May 1, 10-4. It's held at the Liberty Station Conference Center in central, coastal San Diego. One of my favorite shows. There's all kinds of lovely stuff to look at. From my perspective that means: set up early so I have time to look at everyone else's work before I need to stay at my booth. A fun day.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

This year's Rolando Street Fair, yes

 I'll be at the Rolando Street Fair, March 20, 10-6. It's on Rolando Blvd, San Diego, fairly near San Diego State. A fun and friendly neighborhood street fair. New pots? Yes, of course.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ehren Tool, Potter and Marine

He was a Marine, in our first adventure in Iraq. Now, he says, "I just make cups." They are commemorative cups, discussion cups. He started making them for veterans, with images (stamps, decals) from the wars in Iraq, then elsewhere. Then he started making them for individuals, with images they chose, of their weapons, decorations, friends... Now he makes them with people.  And gives them all away. He's had exhibits, lectures, group discussions, hoping to start talk about the experiences and costs of war.

I discovered him in a very moving segment of the Craft in America TV series. It's from 2014, "Service". What grabbed me most was one sentence: "peace is the only adequate war memorial." Of course. Plus something to acknowledge the individuals who suffer.

And my response is to make and give cups with that sentence written on them. Let me know if you want one.

check him

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Commit Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

It's a bumper sticker of course. I like it. Seeing it again, I was caught by the idea of senseless acts of beauty. Are they ever senseless, really?

Here are some beauties, each made by someone's "act". These are pictures from Lark Books' 500 Pitchers. There's a wonderful series of 500_______.


This is the one! I've had fun trying to make pitchers with this sort of top rim. It works, wonderfully.

These are very far from senseless. They are all designed, considered, developed, worked out and practiced, I'm sure. And looked at and felt. What could make something senseless? Nature, I think. And the beauty nature makes, that's senseless, but often gorgeous to our senses.

Like the art that clouds make on this building?

Sometimes we, sensibly, sensitively,  try to make things that have that natural beauty. Here's one, beautiful. But no such thing as a human senseless act of beauty.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Pottery is Popular

I recently was given an article from the New York Times, last December 17th, "The Budding Ceramics-to-Table Movement". I keep finding it strange.

What is newly popular seems to be not individual pieces  --  artwork. Nor industrial products. Rather the in-between, what we call production pottery. This might be a batch of related dishes to supply a restaurant, or a line of vases that a gift shop could reorder and match. This is real craft work, like mass production before machine-made work. But dishes, yes, for daily use.

Certainly this is not a new kind of pottery nor production. Nor is it new for potters to try to make a living at the craft. It's just newly "in" for some people. To me, there is something odd about that, pottery being such a deeply rooted, ancient craft. But why not? Certain styles of pots have been "in" before. For some of the crazier versions of that, check out Edmund de Waal's The White Road.

And the article describes ceramics as the"craft du jour." That's a warning; it's a fad. It doesn't mean that we will all be commercial successes as potters from now on. But some of us will be, are now and perhaps can continue. A fad market grows fast, shrinks fast, and has a short bloom. What good is it? Besides temporary but bigger possibilities to earn money selling pots and lessons, it provides great exposure to something that is, sorry folks, a very niche interest. If lots of people, however faddish, see handmade pottery or try to make pots, some will continue to care and stick with the craft, as makers or buyers or admirers. All welcome. 

Two more odd aspects of this fad. The article quotes people reporting it (from Vogue, for example), as discovering more and more potters, as if we are appearing suddenly. No, the world is full of us, and has been full of spectacularly good makers of wonderful pots. Yes, some are artists and would not have the interest or patience or facilities or management skill to produce lines of work.

And, of course, dishes are tied to food. Should we have been able to predict that a widespread interest in craft food, and in locally sourced food, would expand to an interest in craft, and locally or identifiably sourced dishes? In retrospect, yes, but who knew it would be now? Craft people have long touted craft production as a stand against the sameness, machine-orientation, and excessive amount of industrial products. Robert Sullivan, from Vogue is quoted in  this article: "ceramics are popular now because they are "among the most obviously and literally handmade things.""

But why this year?