As an potter sometimes it feels like the biggest part of the job is convincing people that pottery is worth it. Worth that $30, worth their interest, worth a wee bit of time. But it isssss worth it. This worth can only be found out by use, by a personal a self-made history with an object. By satisfaction over time. I am a pleasure seeker (and finder thank goodness) but we live in a world of empty self gratification, an instant gratification, when we can have anything we want quite readily. But heck, no one realllly knows what they want! How boring of an existence to think you know what you want, and that you get it- living in a closed little self made framework (Ak, hem I only do this four months of the year). It sounds quite dissatisfying in time. The gratification that handmade pottery offers can indeed be instant- you can be instantly attracted to a mug say. But that relationship is one that needs time to be truly satisfying. It dawns on me now that our relations with pots aren’t thattttt different then with lovers, perhaps it is no wonder that parts of pots are names after sensual body parts: lip, neck, hip. But, I digress. If I can draw parallels between the thoughtfully hand crafted pot and a lover, how is it that other’s can’t? Is it really an inanimate object? No, it is an extension of another’s intent, vitality and purpose. Personification is inherent in the making, it is a good pot. How much money, mind power and times has gone into that human obsession of mating? And if a pot could be akin to a love, it is worth some time. Birdie Boone has adapted a mind map exemplifying allllll that a handmade pot might have to offer! Goodness gracious she is proactive! It is sort of the best thing I’ve seen in a while. Gratification alllll around!
Just how does a phone plummet off a shelf untouched into a cup off coffee?
Needless to say, my phone is a bit glitchy and will no longer provide my computer with internet (the only option put here in the forrest!) thus, you will find me blogging via phone- I can do it! However, I won’t be able to link and re-size photos all pretty like for it’ll all be mobile based viewing on this end. It may get a little wonky so bare with me!
Dear Ceramic Enthusiast,
I am sorry I’ve been silent so long.
Will you have me back? Don’t prolong.
I cringe thinking of the time and distance that have kept us apart.
All those absent zeros and ones to start. But oh, I made [attempted to make] such glorious art!
So many late nights I ignored the computer’s neon lights.
My hands muddy and tired eyes unfit for such unseemly sights.
Now I type outside, by fireside.
I maintain, a fire still burns inside.
I miss art.
I think now, now is the time to start.
With a new schedule! You see it there on the sidebar?
Pretty in pink.
There are certainly some new topics there.
Thus, I give to you the new Category Page!
Weekly you will find:
Kiln(er): Kilns are often overlooked and certainly lack an online presence. They are a fundamental and endlessly interesting bit of the ceramic process. Thus under “kilner” (what I am affectionately referred to by a friend and what really perhaps all ceramists could be aptly called) we will explore the wonderful back breaking, hair singeing world of kilns.
Techno-ology: Info. on the technical aspects of ceramics. From melting points to expansion rates and sharpening tool tips to peeing in clay. All the treacherously techo terms and not so nonsensical garb will be dealt with.
Porn/Artist: There is a lot of spectacular work out there and a ton of stellar artists. Let’s drum up the contemporaries and stroke our egos.
Historical Pot: Pottery is the oldest record we have of the creative mind. Civilizations around the world all came to clay separately to make archetypal forms that resonate in every modern pot. The ceramic process with a bit of rapid prototyping and electricity withstanding still relies on ancient processes and materials. There is a wealth of ancient work out there seldom given the spotlight and I am eager to seek it out.
Museum/Gallery/Exposition: All play such a vital role in the lives of artists and art lovers. This section explores what they are all about and what is going on.
(Food) Activism: I have been dwelling more and more on our North American food crisis, an eminent monster ravaging our schools and streets and homes giving our children shorter lifespans and depleting our lands and cultures. But there is hope and it comes in the form of loving and sharing food- not a task so far from the core of all ceramic practices! I am excited to look at the links between craftivism and food activism- in our minds, and daily lives, at our tables, in our ovens and communities and on our computers.
Read It!: I have considered hunkering down for the next several years and disappearing in the library stacks or great abyss of the world wide web, an option of my dreams. I, however, find myself with such full days and I know you do too that all the reading gets mashed together in the filing cabinet of my brain to rust and collect dust. Here I will select a good’n each week I would love for you to read and talk to me about. That way we might keep things straight and expand our minds a little.
Sporadically you will find:
Montage: Compositions of….whatever! I find myself wanting to communicate in montage all the time. So lets slice, dice and repeat!
Color it!: People would be a lot happier if they just colored daily. So why not color in some pots? Don’t stay in the lines.
Critique: These posts will crit an arbitrary work, to further our ability to speak of and see pots in academic manner.
Studio: Updates on studio work, pictures and anecdotes about the [not so] secret life of this potter in particular.
Foodie: I love food. Don’t you? This for all you foodies and covers all foodie stuff designed to make you drool.
Eat it: Photos of things I’ve eaten.
The Review: This section will be me reviewing a publication, exhibition, article.
Opportunity: Dearest Ceramists, yes you’ve got opportunities! As one myself my eyes are always peeled for a juried comp. here, a workshop there, so I shall share.
Bone of Contention: Sometimes I get riled up and have to contend with it.
Dictionary: A slowly complied personal dictionary of ceramic lingo and stuffs. Any orange text in a post will be explained in this section. You can also refer to the Lingo page for a complete overview of all the words discussed so far.
Mail: I am a bit of a post hound, give me some old national geographics, puffy paint and ink to make some summer sunshine love tinged post any day. The archivist in my scans em’ received and sent and wow there are some sweet lil’ somethings and wild fronts to be witnessed!
Playlist: The great Greg Daly once told me that the most important thing in a studio is the stereo system. He of course was totally right, though I’m not adverse to the presence of clay either.
News Flash: Info. that promptly needs knowing!
Essay: I have taken to writing an essay on ceramics every month. Each shall be posted under this category for your thoughts, help and scrutiny.
Question: I’ve got questions. Have you answers?
The Ramble: I shall ramble. You shall read?
Feel free to meander through past posts by category by clicking on any grey category on the sidebar it will take you see the headlines of all the past posts in the chosen category, or use the search field on the right to navigate through tags!
Remember to add me too your RSS Feed (www.bpracticalpottery.com) and follow me on facebook (I’ll be posting tons of nifty links!) so you don’t have to remember to remember to me.
I’ve also update my portfolio page a bit!
Our North American scientific and political histories have taught us to see food as nutrients not whole entities1. Our desire for fuel is devoid of our need for food and all the sensual pleasure accompanying what is put on the table. How is it that art has drifted so far from our tables? How is it that pottery has drifted so far from our food? How is it that food has drifted so far from humanity? What has become of the act of eating? I say act because it is with actions that we learn, test, ask and establish customs, that we question, cultivate and shape our cultures, that we perpetuate value systems and relations. Pottery enables the act of eating. It is the great mediator between our food and ourselves and can literally set the table for crucial conversations. No convivial conversation can take place at the table if we eat alone, rapidly or on the go. If we are to be healthy and have healthy food systems we must eat together and reclaim meal time as a manner in which to question, establish and perpetuate new food systems and traditions. Joan Bruneau, a Nova Scotian potter, has produced wares that ask us to change our perception of food and question our food consumption. This is accomplished by way of her work’s physical form, surface, presence, utility and function2. This paper will scrutinize exactly why and how her work embodies crucial food issues. Joan Bruneau’s work sets the table for vital food education, pleasure and debate in the private domestic and public spheres, something that needs to happen if we are to live healthy lives.
Berneau’s work raises many monumental issues around food production and consumption, however, due to the small scope of this paper it is impossible to cover all these pertinent issues. As a result I have selected one platter, Spring Platter with Fiddleheads (see fig. 1), one of many platters made since Bruneau founded Nova Terra Cotta Pottery, Lunenberg Nova Scotia, in 1995 to serve up three major food issues today: 1) We are out of touch with our food and unhealthy due to our privatized industrialization of food systems. 2) Food traditions, rules and education are skewed in the public and domestic spheres. 3) Regular pleasure in communal eating has been lost and must be reclaimed. Bruneau is currently making work for a show entitled Full Circle: Flower Bricks and Serving Vessels for Every Season that opens November 29 20123. These works together demonstrate that food issues have always been at the core of Bruneau’s work.
|Fig. 1Joan Bruneau, b. Halifax 1963
Nova Terra Cotta Pottery, Lundenburg, NS, founded 1995
Spring Platter with Fiddleheads, 2006
Nova Scotian earthenware with slip and polychrome glazes
9 hx 53w x 39 d
Collection of Joan Bruneau
photo credit: Peter Eastwood
The platter’s motif of fiddleheads is a pivotal choice in Bruneau’s commentary about current food issues, it “grew from a series of platters designed to represent foods for each season – in this case spring and early summer, with the Maritimes delicacies of fresh fiddleheads and salmon” (Alfodly and Gotlieb 92). Here locality is connected to fauna and fauna to food and food to ceramics, we can see the direct path of Bruneau’s choices. Agriculture is intimately connected to ceramics. “After Man the Nomad settled, one of his earliest needs was to store the bounty of summer’s harvest, to allow him to get through the cycle of autumn, winter and spring before fresh crops were again available” (Hopper 20). This was done through impervious clay storage vessels. How far we’ve come since then, to eat every thing, from everywhere, all the time. We no longer recognized the seasons as a factor of what we eat due to globalized industrial food systems. “In just a few decades the out-of-season vegetable moved from novelty status to such an ordinary item, most North Americans now don’t know what out-of-season means” (Kingsolver 49) at the sane time “a profit-driven, mechanized food industry has narrowed down our [food] variety and overproduced cornand soybeans. But we let other vegetables drop from the menu without putting up much a fight4” (Kingsolver 54). This a problem Joan Bruneau feels everyday and channels through her work. Do you reside in Nova Scotia? Do you eat fiddleheads come spring? Her platter by way of surface decoration asks you to entertain the idea. It is worth a fight.
Mechanized food systems are not only stripping our environments but, “our addiction to just two crops has made us the fattest people who’ve ever lived, dining just a few pathogens away from famine4” (Kingsolver 54). We believe there to be variety in our grocery stores but we are culling the world’s food to just a few tasteless monocultures5. Bruneau has a big qualm about honey crisp apples, she explains that heritage varieties of Nova Scotian apples “are all dug up and a [honey crisp] monoculture replaces the more diverse culture of apples. Honey crisp are grown espaliered, they are very vulnerable and spindly, and we live in a hurricane zone” (Bruneau, Interview). Bruneau is acutely aware that we must eat locally and seasonally to survive bodily and culturally. For her upcoming show Bruneau is juxtaposing handcrafted platters and slow local labored food with factory plates and main stream factory farmed foreign fruit. Slip cast giant red “Monsanto6” tomatoes will sit upon stark lifeless dollarstore white plates and be entitled “Everfresh” ironically “to counter balance the other pieces in the show meant for certain seasons- decorated with indigenously grown food and foliage and fauna. It is [her] comment about Factory Food on Factory ceramics” (Bruneau, Interview) and a call to action. The exhibition neighbors the Halifax Seasport Market and is key in thinking about the audience Bruneau is hoping to attract. “Somebody who’s a farmer at that market would so get [the Monsanto tomatoes]. They can be a catalyst to draw attention to the pots.” By taking domestic work akin to the Spring Platter with Fiddleheads (see fig. 1) that was designed “from a love of cooking and dedication to the presentation of food” (qtd. in Alfodly and Gotlieb 92), seasonal local food and pairing it with industrial food stuffs that are killing us and our ecosystems and placing it in the public sphere Bruneau is blatantly causing us to question our food values and systems. She is suggesting we could do better and suggests we do so by the sensual enjoyment and pleasure in eating.
Our general actions say we don’t value food. Jamie Oliver’s sure feels so. He states, “People don’t give a toss about what they put in their mouths every day… If you walk around your average supermarket, even though big efforts have been made, there are still lots of products riddled with additives, hydrogenated fats and a whole catalog of fillers- fake food.” (Oliver 6) Jamie knows this must change. So what should we eat? Micheal Pollan has determined we should “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants7”(In the Defense 1). North American eaters eat ignorantly out of season industrialized food-ish things synthesized in labs or in factories their growth dependent on chemicals and machines, our industrialized food now seldom touches the hand, with dire consequences. We live in a drastically disconnected and desolate foodscape. “So violent a change in a culture’s eating habits is surely the sign of a national eating disorder. Certainly it would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating” (Pollan, The Omnivore’s 2).
We must make new food traditions and nurture old ones through eating and education8. Our cultures should codify the rules of eating in an elaborate structure of taboos, rituals, recipes, manners and culinary traditions to keep us from having to constantly re-enact the omnivore’s dilemma 9 at every meal but, we inhabit bewildering food landscape where we have to worry that some of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. (Pollan, The Omnivore’s 4). Knowing what your food really is by buying directly from the farmer eradicates the doubt in your food and connects you to a community invested in combating food issues. Besides, there is the integrity of something that just tastes really good because its just been picked and you know the person who grew it, if it is a strawberry its not just a visual strawberry, its a flavorful strawberry (Bruneau, interview) you can identify with that farmer and that land and that eating experience. “Preparing and presenting an inspired meal.. affirms our connection to identity, while elevating domestic rituals from banal to beautiful10” (Bruneau, website). The shared beauty of good whole foods and good health fosters respect and interest in their and our cultivation. The “wonderful thing about pottery is that every time [people] use it they identify with it. It ends up representing a memory of a past experience or a dinner party they had. People develop relationships with the objects we make when they use them” (Bruneau interview). So we must use our pots and rally together to see the beauty they give food. According to Marget Visser, renowned author and historian “one of the great eye-openers of the 20th century is the realization that the use of humble everyday objects is not only habitual- which is to say we cannot do without them… but they embody our mostly unspoken assumptions, and they both order our culture and determine its direction. Food is “everyday”- it has to be, or we would not survive. But food is never just something to eat” (12), food is culture.
We’ve arguably been trying to “invent [our] own food culture” (Mowbray 6) in the void of clear traditions. We’ve have established community practices and movements such as farmer’s markets, food co-ops, community gardens, potlucks, slow food11, buying local/eat local challenges and community shared agriculture programs and foodies12. We must cook and eat together to grow and perpetuate healthy food culture. When we cook now, we are never alone we, “bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we’ve ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and we want to be” (Wizenberg 2). Johnathan Foer explains in his book Eating Animals that food is story and defines us, for his grandmother food, “is not food. It is terror, dignity, gratitude, vengeance, joyfulness, humiliation, religion, history, and, of course, love13” (5). Food is a way of life and life is meant to be shared. Bruneau’s platters by way of their size explicably denote this, they ask us to, “slow down and enjoy the sensuality of eating” (Bruneau, Interview) and share a meal. When you get right down to it, it is “all about pleasure… We know that the fresher the food is and if is grown locally, in a non industrial environment, it is going to taste better. It’s quite basic… it is the same principal in living and using beautiful objects… it is fundamentally about beauty and quality of life” (Bruneau, interview). We know “Good food and good company are two of life’s greatest pleasures, and the dinning room is where these pleasures come together” (Pottery Barn 7). Bruneau’s Spring Platter with Fiddleheads (see fig. 1) when brought to the table is all about drama. Your platters and bowls frame your food, your ideas about food and your enjoyment of that food (Bruneau, Interview). As ceramic guru Robbin Hopper writes, “cooking and serving are closely related” (24) and so is the joy there in, we must do them together as food conscious civilized eaters.
Civilization entails shaping, regulating, constraining, and dramatizing ourselves; we echo the preferences and the principles of our culture in the way we treat our food” (Visser 12). “Eating is an agricultural act, it is also an ecological act and a political act too” (Pollan, The Omnivore’s 4). It is also an artful act. Contemporary Craft Practices, Craft History, Food Science, Food Politics, Agriculture, and Cultural History accompany us to eat everyday. Bruneau harnesses this power in her work, it is arguably activist work. She knows that the “important thing is to educate the public” (Bruneau, interview) and asks us to learn by eating. The work really is, “a feast for the eyes and a delight to use,” her “intent as a studio potter is to inspire interaction with pots” (Bruneau, website) and with this interaction get us back in touch with our food, perpetuate good food traditions and reclaim joy in eating together, necessary actions if we are to survive.
Alfoldy, Sandra and Rachel Gotlieb, curators. On the Table: 100 Years of Functional Ceramics in Canada. Toronto, ON: Gardiner Museum, 2007. 22, 44.
Bruneau, Joan. Joan Bruneau, 2012. Joan Bruneau. 30 October 2012
Bruneau, Joan. Personal interview. 29 October 2012.\
Hopper, Robin. Functional Pottery: Form and Aesthetic in Pots of Purpose. Lola: Krause Publications, 2000.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. New York: Bantam Books, 2006.
Mowbray, Scott. “This Issue’s a Big Wet Kiss.” Cooking Light. November 2012: 6.
Oliver, Jamie. Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.
Pollan, Michael. In the Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Pottery Barn. Dinning Spaces: Ideas and inspiration for stylish entertaining and everyday dinning. San Fransisco: Weldon Owen, 2004.
Visser, Margret. Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal. Toronto: Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1986.
Have you worked on your glutes lately?
That is what my phone says out into the world whenever there in an incoming call. Some extra squats and deep knee bends are a good idea, especially for thine back. I also find myself walking clay back and forth, back and forth, back and forth these days down a narrow hall- I have taken to glimpsing around and doing bicep curls or overhead lifts a la clay weights. Some day some one will catch me and well maybe it’ll catch on and we’ll all get buff. But there are other bottoms to consider. Those of your pots, of anyone’s pots. Just take a gander below at the pots from the “Will you people stop breaking my heart?” post and you will see every one is beautifully finished on the bottom. It may be because these pots are for sale on the net and us future owners want to know what we are getting ourselves into…but(t) it is more likely that these makers understand the importance of a bottom. Bernard Leach has told us this about bottoms, “There in the most naked but hidden part of the work [one] expects to come into closest touch with the character and perception of its maker.” Maybe you just need to shake your tail feather, splash some color on that plumage. I recently came into contact with a mug of Martin Lantin’s at the Seeds Gallery and remember fellow ceramist Alana Wilson (fellow exhibitor in Passages) picking up a Martina mug and swooning a little expressed admiration for that bottom- I did the same at the gallery for the Martina cup in question was just red earthenware dipped in a cream slip freely and beautifully, simple and elegant yet on the bottom there lay a sphere of overgraze of such vibrancy to jolt the eyes and get the heart thumping. I have an affinity for absurdly neon bits. I smiled and contemplated purchasing this little number- as I broke my Martina mug two years ago (see above). Alas, I must be making not collecting, my recent favorite mug took a tumble last week and I yelled “Mother F***er” smiled and said “It had to happen sometime dear friend” with blissful closure as only a potter can. We experience profound love and shattering heartbreak on a daily basis us potters- quite literally. Anyways, up walks the Gallery curator and she has obviously be scratched or pierced or cut or wounded by some bottom lately for she explains to me her biggest pet pieve of the novice- unfinished bottoms- a little too exuberantly for my straight laced business mind, there were after all other customers there to look at art- AT ART! Student Art! One should never scare the willing public aways from novice art, we after all have such few patrons to begin with. Let that be a lesson to me and you: don’t scare away customers and keep those bottoms tight. We must try and make folks enjoy our pots in the gallery, on the dish rack, in the sink, on the shelf, in the hand, everywhere. One way to do that is by caring for the less obvious parts of a pot. Have you worked on your glutes lately?
Let’s go fly a kite?
Let’s write write write.
Two months ago I took these screenshots from Portlandia as I knew they’s come in handy some long day in my house the sun ablaze outside and beckoning. If these figures can have so much pretend outdoor fun I can too, in my minds eye.
Take a look. Throw down some seeds!
Giving the 3min speech on Towards a Standard today… What is your response?:
I have to say how hard it is to just have three minuets. Every time I read this chapter I am in awe of how progressive Leach can be and aggravated at how inaccurate he has been proven.
In in reading Leach analyses the Westerners’ deficiency of an accepted standard of pottery in the 1940‘s. and with this deficiency he deems Sung wares the ultimate achievement of beauty in function and form and advocates it as the accepted standard. He fears the defragmentation of culture and thinks bad pots and bad taste will perpetuate with a lack common ideals. By establishing a means in which the public may judge good pottery he aims to promote traditions in which ceramics may thrive/survive.
In WWII it must have seemed impossible Crafts or any high luxury would exists again for a general populace. I too feel Craft is in a struggle for survival. I the deficiencies that Leach felt.
I disagree in thinking an assimilated, albeit superb, example from antiquity is needed to revitalize the integrity of studio pottery. In the event of globalization and the information age, aka the world wide culture Leach hypothesized would solve the potter’s problems, today’s potters indeed seek validation in various cultural traditions but refuse Sung wares as a standard.
This book turned out many successful baby boomer potters, who made good pots, who took on apprentices, who believed Leach. Ironically rather than Sung pots becoming the new standard Leach became the new standard. He created his own esthetic cult. Still our problem today is much the same as in his; a populace with little physical experience using good pots. Museums, galleries, blogs and books have shown us exceptional pottery in the 21st century but we have not extensively used them daily in our domestic environments. Physical engagement and emotional investment from a populace is currently needed to revitalize craft, not an academic standard.
Now the absence of beauty in our objects must as Leach says, “be intolerable to both maker and consumer. We desire not only food but the enjoyable zest of eating.” Today we have new sense of value in our objects because we live on a world stage that realizes recourses are finite and disposable isn’t really a thing.
Now we use the power of consumerism, or lack there of, to make choices that define our cultures and futures- one right choice is unique and beautiful craft.
How can we make and insert good handcrafted pottery into the daily lives of say Canadians and is that a solution?
A calm sea can turn turbulent fast, indeed!
Let that be a lesson to you all. Let that be a lesson to me!
The calm of tower is shattered by the bustle of city activity and sirens at night (not of the mermaid variety).
A gal with so many amazing recourses, so many opportunities should not scoff at them, yet there is a great danger in embracing them all and tis a danger I may be on the cusp of.
I accidentally joined the AV Club yesterday.
I joined the grain co-op the day before.
I had a CKDU co-op radio meeting today!
Life is swell and with every swell I am carried further out to sea.
Yes, too many ocean references…. they are inspired by this poster:
It would in theory make sense to try and make some money off of a skill I love and want to share… to join or not to join? That is the question.