Saturday, July 5, 2014

Teapots Again, and They're Fun to Make

I haven't made teapots in several years. Starting from a class assignment, in a handbuilding class I took this spring, I've rediscovered the fun of these shapes.

They're not so hard to make anymore. Teapots are a standard challenge for beginning potters, lots of parts to make and relate; I'm past that stage. Here's what the latest ones look like.

That one's just a picture; I put runny glaze on the top (that brown plus white combination) and sealed the top to the pot above the spout. Maybe I'm not past the stage of having difficulty with teapots.

I'm liking their friendly roundness, with a bit of cute.

Want to see some inspiring teapots, not my doing?

 If you want cuteness, these two have it. And the ones in the next picture are definitely art, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

So much to try!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the Coronado Art Association

I've been enjoying finding wonderful potters as we traveled in France, in places I was told to look, and in others we happened upon. Potters everywhere. Locally, too there are skilled and inspired potters everywhere. And other artists. The Coronado Art Association is one of many such organizations of local artists. It's centered in Coronado, open to any one in the San Diego area who passes their jury's scrutiny. It's largely composed of painters, also a few potters, photographers, jewelers, wood carvers... They  -- we --  show and sell our work in Spreckel's Park in Coronado, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, 9-4. What a pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday. I'll be there most of these Sundays for the summer.

Come by and I'll share a chair. Have a look at what the others are showing. The quality is generally very high; you'll see what's to your taste.

Influenced by the beach as well as the park, maybe, I've been making magnets, like these.

And tried out these little shell shapes as cabinet pulls. It works. Want custom cabinet handles?

There seems no end to the possibilities, in ideas and applications. And so many people making it ourselves, or playing it or performing it ourselves. Who fits this image we hear about so much, of Americans as dull couch potatoes and spectators?

Monday, May 26, 2014

France is Full of Fabulous Potters

Of course, but I haven't known of any of them. We've been on a trip to southern France. I like to visit potters while traveling but had no luck actually finding potters there on the internet until Pierre Bounaud stepped in with leads. He's French and American and a fine potter. Thanks, Pierre!

We went to 2 pottery villages,  Moustiers Ste.-Marie, and St. Quentin la Poterie. Both are places with a long tradition of pottery making, in St. Quentin, since Neolithic times. There must be good local clay, though the people I heard from and about were not using that. There are other pottery villages, most famous in the area is Vallauris, which we avoided to avoid the Cannes film festival. Imagine them; a whole small town full of potters, studios, galleries, shops.  San Diego has many, I think an astonishing number of good potters, who know each other, but disappear into the rest of the city and population. In these villages, you walk down the street from one to the next. For potters, it's home!

Here's a map of Moustiers. The blue dots are all potters!

Moustiers is next to the spectacular gorge of the Verdon River, perhaps because of that very touristy. Decent pots for sale in the souvenier shops, and crowds wandering among them and restaurants. It's also in a dramatic site, on a cliffside, with a small river falling though it, staircase streets and houses built over each other.  There's an official category, "the most beautiful villages in France"; this is one.

St Quentin was much quieter, though I hope they have crowds in major tourist season. It seems just a beautiful small town of potters, working away privately.

 In each village we found one wonderful gallery, showing the very most marvelous  regional art work. Check them out:
La Mostra in Moustiers (

Terra Viva in St. Quentin (

And so I've found potters to rave about. I recommend you

Xavier Duroselle (
Brigitte Marionneau (
Isabelle LeClerc(
Yves Lambeau (

Oh, and Stephanie Gaillard, who I did not find on the web, but she made the wonderfully layered bowls at La Mostra. And so forth.

And then we stumbled over more. In the Pyrenees, we stopped in Villefranche de Conflent, a tiny village known for  its great walls and castle. It seems to live on tourist products in good taste, and in the 2 streets, we found the shops of 3 potters. The work is good, the prices shockingly low. Here's a cup by Phil Monroig.

And Le Panier, in the old part of Marseille (that goes back to the ancient Greeks), has become an art zone. Just walking we went by 4 potters' shops. Look at this beautiful stuff:
And I'd love to link you to Serge Moutarlier but don't find a website.

And then there is  national organization of potters, the Collectif  National des Ceramists:, listing potters and shows all over the country.

Wow. I hope you enjoy theses websites as a sit-down tour of our marvelous colleagues there.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Empty Bowls 2014

This year's Empty Bowls fundraising for TACO is May 10, 11-1, at United Methodist Church, 6063 La Jolla Blvd. in La Jolla.

This is a world-wide, annual lovely fundraiser for organizations serving homeless people. Potters make bowls to donate, restaurants provide soup and bread, sometimes performers donate their shows. You can come, choose a bowl, fill it for lunch, make a donation, keep your bowl. I hear it started with a high school ceramics program in Michigan somewhere.

For more details, check

So far my bowls look like this

Work to do!

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm Waiting for It to Move

Who could know? The best fun I had at the Rolando Street Fair on Sunday was hearing reactions to the "fish" in my garden bowls--bird baths--patio ponds. I had one bowl on the street in front of my table of pots, with water in it. I've been making these for awhile.

Here's an early one, with a few ripples on the bottom.

Then I started adding a fish; why not have one in your bird bath?

Then I find that wonderful things happen when other people see them. On Sunday, both a mature woman and a little boy informed me with confidence that the one in the next bowl is an alligator. Several other children knew it is an eel. And a serious teenager squatted next to the bowl on the street, watched a considerable while, and told me he was waiting for it to move.

I like making pots. But I think I like touching imagination even more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

At the Rolando Street Fair, with New Pots

Hello I'll be at the Rolando Street Fair on March 30. That's on Rolando Ave, 1 block south of El Cajon Blvd, slightly east of SDSU. It runs 10-6, whatever weather. And I'll bring new pots.

Here are a few:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Makes a Good Pot?

A good pot has to have several qualities. I'm thinking here of functional ceramics, where use is probably primary for the person who chooses to own the pot. The basics first.

Structure: a good pot is well made.

That means reliably strong enough, not like this one

That was meant to be a pitcher. I picked it up by the handle after the first firing (not a good idea anyway, I learn, but usually ok).

And the bottom compressed enough and kept dry enough in the making, not like this one.

If it's meant to sit steady on a surface or hang flat, it does that.

Then function:

It should be the right size for the intended use. A picture won't show how big this pitcher is, but it's very different if it is to hold lemonade for six or a bit of cream for coffee.

A good pot should be stable in use. I generally like pots light in weight. A full teapot, pitcher or big mug will be heavy enough when it is picked up. Vases, though, might be better somewhat bottom heavy, as flowers are top heavy and arrangements can spread.

And then, ergonomic quality, so the pot works well with the holder's body and movements. It's about form, balance, size of the parts you come into contact with (like the handle fitting a hand). Enough about this in the past 2 posts.

And aesthetic quality. If pottery is an art, it's usually a visual art. A good pot looks good.

Here are some that inspire me.
Both pictures are, I think, from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. So there are museum-quality looks.

Maybe you don't see these pots as wonderful. Taste makes so much difference. Here's a pot I made in a class, and dislike intensely.

It's reasonably cute, ok. Not really a pleasant glowing brown, rather a muddy khaki. I took the elephant home to photograph before throwng it out. A visiting friend claimed it immediately, and, several years later, still enjoys it.

At a recent sale, my pots were given a compliment "nice earthy colors and refinement." That I do like. I hope she was talking about this sort of pot

But I make vases for a florist who knows exactly what he wants, what he describes as contemporary, like these vases.

So are these the necessary kinds of quality: structural, functional, ergonomic, aesthetic? They fit. Are there others? I don't know. Each one certainly has a lot of parts. And I remember an old book by Richard (maybe) Bennett, called Spaces for People. He adjusted Maslow's psychological Hierarchy of Needs to buildings, which he says, need to provide good safety, function, comfort and aesthetics. That made sense to me, and actually works for the tiny buildings we call pots. 

How about the order? Following Maslow, he meant the list of needs to be in order, from the most important and basic to the least important. My design students never liked that, of course. And surely they are interactive. For example, a substantial lip on a cup makes it sturdier, a structural quality, and comfortable for the drinker's lip, an aspect of function. Is one of those more important? I prefer "all of the above" as the requirement for quality.