Critique: Lisa Hammond Plates

If you happened to explore any of the links attached to the last post you would have instantly come across this quote:

“Each Lisa Hammond pot has a life of its own,
its own sense of renewal.
They all offer their own pleasures,
an intimacy that adds another dimension
to the way we eat and drink,
to the ceremonies of the everyday,
to the space we occupy.
In short, to the way we live our lives.”

— David Whiting

Do you agree?

I must say that these plates are magical and probably actually do do what the quote denotes. I however do have to scoff at the epic pronouncement of such a function. I as potter, I often want to shout “Pottery can change our daily lives! Open your eyes!” to the tree tops and grasp shake a few shoulders hoping that this message will seep into the consciousness of the general public, but also acknowledge pottery’s limits. I am a potter. I am obsessed, and believe in the power of pottery and reverence of the mundane uses of art. I am at once proud and shocked to have this quote stare me in the face upon entering Hammond’s website. While looking at the plates pictured in the post below the declaration doesn’t seems to lofty after all. Those suckers have life. But, not all pots of even a master can embody that enduring spark. A few others I have spied on Hammond’s webpage have left me wanting (Fair play if you scoff- they are just pictures and we know pots have many more dimensions. Please note I am not debunking their beauty).
Should critics, like David Whiting, be so absolute? It can be hard to take people’s comments at face value, the verbal beast all hackles up ready with the retort “Oh, yeah!? What about YOUR art!?” What opinions should you take to heart? Who is saying what? More importantly, why? This is a key component to remember when listening to people talk about any work. Why? Why? Why? Be a five year old discovering the world. You can think anything you want. You can believe anything you want. You can say anything you want. But for Bernard’s Sake say what has prompted these thoughts.

Most often for me it is a feeling that stems from an interaction with a piece of work and can often take a swack of discerning (and blabbing) to figure out just where the visceral reaction stems from and why it was felt. In functional ceramics it is the conscious repetition of making that breaths some life, elegance, refinement, magic, however you wish to label the defining quality of goodness, into a piece of work. Academics believe worth is a blatant chosen act injected into a work by concept and reference or dogmatic talent. Us potters know it is something more subtle, deeper and harder to infuse thus, it can be more difficult to discern why exactly something spark[le]s[.] something within us.

I think Alan Caiger-Smith had it right in writing:

“I would say there is a difference between inattentive repetition, which leads eventually to something pretty vacant and facile, and repetition done with intention, which is really a growing thing, giving rise to the process of maturing that you only see long afterwards. Very often, people talk about repetition as if it meant doing exactly the same thing again and again; it really means going through the same kinds of motion repeatedly, without doing precisely the same thing. It struck me particularly because I was so bad to begin with that there was plenty of room for improvement, but it is something that happens even with really skilled people. There is a case for non-repeat work, too, and I has its own reasoning and philosophy. There is simply something about repetition which a lot of people underestimate.”

So what happens when you have a set? Is it judged and experienced as one work or as segments into individual components? We are, after all, looking at a single plate and set of plates (pictured in the post below) for this talk. Let’s talk about just that top plate first. Hello perfect asymmetrical grey resist line that culminates in a bare thumb relief. This design mimics my personal and most favorite short hand for the concept in life and literature that after a narrative you end where you begin but are not the same, but are the same. Same same but different. In making this plate I highly doubt that Hammond’s intentions were to convey this concept, but I have found it here. I also am a sucker for shell wadding marks that work. I like them a little ruff and edgy reflecting the firing and the sea. Wadding placements, especially on the face of plates are such a deal maker or breaker. Here they’ve made it. I have Gail Nichol’s cautionary voice echoing in my mind “Beware of wadding that looks like faces.” Beware of threes. I have a friend that sees cartoonesk faces in everything- the clouds, pots, paintings. I hate that. Once you see it, you can not un-see it. We do not find that here. I realize it is our need as humans to find associations but, ak when someone says, “Hey, that looks like a frog, a whale, a shoe…” Oh, how do I cringe. Notice in true contradictory form how I instantly sought and celebrated a way of understanding via my short hand notation reference. I am only human.

The crawling glaze on the edge in a striation pattern rather than a in a circular manner I dig. It always surprises me when I like a little crawl in a glaze. I always think it will be more morning after ugly pub crawl-esk feelings but in this strata line form it is more the night of party joyous feelings I feel. Come on Bridget, just say it straight and stop with the pitiful unwitting puns. I like lines. More specifically, I like these lines and their spot on proportions.

What about the stacked set? Wonky rims? Yes please, they add character to the hand and eye and in this case match the messy free bottoms. (That I instinctively want to sharpen up). I am not really a fan of those iron bursts where the glaze gets thick on the under-rim. I have no good reason to say why, just for purity and simplicities sake. I currently think they are muddling up a good thing and distract thine eye. Given time I would probably find myself enjoying their sporadic blurred muddy nature whilst exposed on the sink side drying rack, where pots so often beg for some more stimuli and charisma.

Tell me what you have to say.

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