Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Pot in the Hand is Worth Two on the Shelf

That's a quote from Mark Hewitt, in Kevin Hluch's lovely book: The Art of Contemporary American Pottery. I love it. So true.

When I sell my pottery at craft shows, I so often see people looking at the pots with hands firmly behind their backs or arms crossed. And I always say "please handle."  I think you only know if you really like a pot by testing it with your hands. It's about feel at least as much as sight. So pictures in a blog or online shop lack something important. It's the body connection, and pottery is very bodily. All about hands, especially, in liking and in making. This is so for handmade pots, but also for appreciating industrial products, why not? You live with them in your hands, unless they are just for diaplay.

It's a hand skill, though we make pots with mind, eyes, arms, torso as well. From, Hluch: "the experienced potter's gestures are fluid, sure, economical  --  almost nonchalent" and the pots show it. I see the ease and sureness in making and like it, even in pots very much not to my taste. Throwing pots on a wheel is actually playing in the mud, bodily immersion in material.

The finished pots show the marks of the making hands; the horizontal grooves in this jar are effects of throwing. (That's lifting and shaping the clay on a potting wheel.) Usually I choose smooth surfaces and trim off this sort of thing. Here I like it.

We talk about pots in terms of body parts.

This pitcher has a foot, a belly, a neck, a mouth, a lip, almost as much as you do.

These have shoulders, rather than bellies.

Hluch suggests that though we never say it,
it is erotic to throw pots. Could be; certainly it's bodily and sensual, especially when we're working with people-colored clays.

"The link between the hands of the maker and the hands of the user" (Charity Davis-Woodward, quoted in Hluch)  -- that's it, and it's an intimacy, even if I do not know the users of my pots in any other way.

If I do, so much the better. It adds a dimension to a relationship. It also, maybe unfortunately, keeps me judging the quality of the pots  -- because this is the quality that matters most.

Oops, the handle isn't right, the balance is way off.

Here's a commercial teapot, good balance, but the handle is a bit odd in the hand. You really have to grab it.

The plate is by Ellen Fager. Good looks, good feel.

Thanks Will.