I admittedly can have a an illegible hand. I think words written by hand are dying out and a great expressive extension of ourselves, this is one of the reasons I love letters. And as such I did a little experiment last crit. Did you read it? Did you start and give up? Did you persevere? If you did- well done. You got the true raw instant musings and feelings that accompany a first go. If you gave up or didn’t bother please find the typed version below:
When we look at a vessel, in what manner to be position it on a timeline? This vessel is pre-Columbian. When we critique it do we do so in comparison to present day pottery, for reference in a present-day cultural context? Or ought we consider the vessel through the lens of its maker and as per the cultural context of its origins? It is endlessly amazing how contemporary ancient pottery can seem – is. This is not to suggest that ceramic practices have not evolved or are stagnant or somesuch thing nor that environments or contexts of pottery in the ceramic field are not entirely different from an ancient climate: they really are. Rather, it eludes to the power and presence of a vessel or that the vessel creates. Surely humans have changed a bit, we’ve modern technology and ideals but our ability to interact and understand pot is much the same – the human to pot and pot to human experience at its most fundamental and simplest level remains unchanged, perhaps primal. I reckon this is how a vessel can seem contemporary. In ceramics we are working within a framework of function and material, this lends itself to a certain amount of continuity across a timeline or location. Can’t you look at this vessel and imagine its place in any rustic loft decor complete with neo Navajo rug and Willie Nelson album cover on a minimalist coffee table and place this jar into the present day chic setting? Yes.
I almost wrote above that pottery was “timeless” and thankfully did not. What a horrid description. The truth is pots denote, explain and represent a specific time and place perhaps more than any other medium (less with the advent of globalization…) it is traditionly how we date entire civilizations (via shards), explain trading routes via motif and daily activities via form. So how can something denote a past time that makes sense in the present? Easily.
So what this jar? Look how that triangle motif carries right on to the lug (the nub at the top of the vessel). Who nowadays would do that!? ( Note the photo was taken from below – good photographer for exemplifying this quality!)
“Tale of a summer bird”- I can see it. Yes. Yes. Historians and collectors (and makers) have set to naming various motifs and specifying what, well, what the image itself specifies. Just as in literature, certain words denote concepts that give messages. In pottery this is done with design. In many cultures specific motifs are used on certain vessels for certain reasons but a physical problem exists when imposing a preestablished design on a vessel. Expectations and the convention dictate what ought to be done through what has worked in the past. How a vessel and surface is married is incredibly important. How to impose a motif, image, idea onto a pot while not diminishing the integrity of the form but inhancing it is an ordeal. This is one of the reasons I commend the maker of this vessel for an ingenious and interesting resolution to the conundrum- that triangle is imposed on the lug!!! It is free yet cohesive, elegant yet playful. After so much praise, my big question is what’s on the other side? Is it contrite, rigid or incomplete? Are there even triangles there? Alas, we will never know, unless and inquiry is written to the American Museum of Natural History is made and some poor curator pities the fool (aka me) or we show up in person and make a fuss or bat some considerable eyelashes and frankly even then the back side of this baby shall remain a mystery. On to what we can see. My complaint with this vessel (possibly jut with the photograph) is the base. Leach once wrote (I think…) that what matters are the ends. The middles have a way of taking care of themselves. I don’t necessarily agree with him but, do agree the lip and foot carry more weight- they are the defining bits- the end of the line indeed. So why do I want something more from this foot? Or rather, something less? I dig and agree with its girth, I think. The base is twinned to the lip and is not exceeded by its body in circumference, it manages to be slender yet sturdy. I do believe my qualm lies in the “corners” of the foot and maybe with the lighting of the photo. I want more grace where the.ay contacts the ground. Those square edges bug me when coupled with a curvy rest. Lugs- that jauntily reach for the sky gets don’t look apt to break- check! I want to see that Tim…. Who is going to write that letter? Tell me.