Why is it that elaborate handcrafted items are considered to be symbols of status by some? Is it because of their existence in our intimate domestic spheres? It it because they we’ve attached our identity of health and wealth to food? In a discussion of Lorna Meaden’s punchbowl (pictured below), we were throwing around ideas of use and celebration. When would someone use such an item? Who would purchase such a thing? Why? In what manner would it be used? For lavish gloating? For ostentation? Or for community and joy? Lorna makes this item with the later in mind. No potter sets about thinking their wares will empower the wealthy with the desire to marginalize the less money oriented (Hello! They are a potter they ARE the less money oriented!) Lorna in no way sets about making this punch bowl to add to an elitist cult and shun those with sangria in paper cups. It is a service which demands conviviality and participation- not segregation. But it is an object that you would not use alone, it demands a witness, it demands a party. So when does an item really become a status symbol? When a purchaser say so? When a third party deems it so, someone without a lavish ceramic punch bowl?
Status indeed. What does an item like this state when purchased and used with the makers intended sentiments? I support the arts? I love to share beauty? I really appreciate punch? I like to celebrate? Or I’m a pompous ass? Really, here let’s keep perspective. Pottery walks the most peculiar line. Lowly craft or elitist luxury good? Let’s face it- you or I could vow off coffee for the next two years and put that money towards a Lorna Medean punch bowl. And if it really is an item that could symbolize status why does it not coast at the very least $5,000- $20,000 a deserved sum for such a work of art. Why in ceramics are there so many notions that don’t jive? Elitist every day objects. Less face it, we don’t live in a world of entertainment like we used to, where people were invited into our intimate domestic realms to eat and be entertained. How many times did you host a dinner party this month? How often did you done with more than three people for more than 30mins this week?
There is no denying that hand crafted pottery here in North America are luxury items, but they are private luxury items. But so is… Everything. Is not all art? No, art is synonyms with every level of wealth and culture. People in some parts use daily the most beautiful pots are earth and these are considered lowly in comparison to plastic. Why project misguided hierarchical categories of status on such an item intended to celebrate sharing and community?
Notice the use of live music for theatrical oumf.
Potters often make the mistake, I often make the mistake, of thinking pots themselves are the be all end all of well everything. Rather they are vessels- and by definition containers- they carry something. They transport their containments to our senses. They are an extra tricky vehicle of display because we expect them to present many different items (food, coffee, keys, coins, rubber bands, toothpicks, toothbrushes) well, more than well. We also expect a pot to be a work of Art in its own right. This can account for the pot of a subtle- delicate and precise yet complex that often has so much strength both in the Gallery and on the table. These below by Michael Kline fit into that category.
Do you agree?
Every time I sit to write in regards to pottery I am reminded it is at once such a simple and complex endeavour.
Of the earth.
Many potters were rock collectors as youths.
As such, I can not help but enjoying rough igneous like surfaces.
I relish a bit of texture here and there, a bit of grit.
Here there is certainly more than “a bit of grit”.
In danger of muddling such a pure pottery rhetoric (HA!) shall we light on the stupidly over done and redundant question of pottery that verges on sculpture? I maintain that all pottery is sculpture, and more. It is hard not to acknowledge that we shant being eating spaghetti out of this number. Though I would be tempted to fill it, make it a container (of more than just thoughts). For lack of hint to its size, I can see it larger than life the mainstay of a low sweet trendy coffee table holding new age architecture mags (Oh, no. We’ll save the talk about Architecture and Pottery for later. I do loath it. For I broke tradition in grade 7 Drafting 101 disappointing a Father Architect, son of an Architect, a Grandfather Architect, son of an architect, son of a farmer (designing and raising all farm structures alone) swearing off Architecture as a unpleasurable profession. I now find myself surrounded by a myriad of potters who believe their designing and problem solving akin to that of those designing hospitals, prisons, schools, libraries and homes. Compare and contrast. Compare and contrast. Oh the human condition, Oh the foundations of science.) I can also see this of small presence holding my car keys (Claudi, if you ever happen to read this, I am sorry for desiring to put my car keys in your wonderous vessel that is surely to be revered and cherished and purchased for at least few hundred thousand dollars. My homely way of expressing my reverence is by wishing it used no matter how offensive and belittling such an action may seem to you.) Alas, due to craggy textured surface this vessel is propelled slightly more towards sculpture than pot. No?
It looks like space. Oh, compare and contrast. A bunt out star, a black hole drawing every thing closely into boundless dense dark matter. The surface of Mars? A topographic rendering of the subarctic sprawl? For person who is displeased when someone else’s symbolism over shadows my own I do so readily delight and sharing mine. I like that the we drag meaning from something perhaps meaningless. That our minds project and create story from abstract imagery. I like that everything is up for interpretation and no concept concrete. I have been looking at this vessel by its lonesome and finding strength in its quality. Looking at this vessel next to one akin to it in nature, craggy and low and topographic, compare and contrast, I would undoubtedly be able to find a number more to my liking. I am amused and intrigued by how things grow more agreeable in isolation. Gallery walls are sparse and white for a reason. Portfolio photos are uninhibited by extraneous content for a reason. If I had my druthers there would be hints of peach added to this scape and that one middle patch of rust would be less eye catching- more evenly distributed and brother patch of rust added for reference. The edges I would never change- good edges, good shape, good proportion. It is such a futile and odd consideration for an artist to desire change and control in another’s work, knowing that the artists themself did not even have ultimate control. The thoughts are still work considering though for it can hone our own thoughts with our own work where we can elicit some control and bring about change. Though, it shows little deference to an artist and speaks volumes of our consumer society with focus on the power of choice, the power of consumer. What happened to the power of the Artist and Art? it seems someone has always got to buy it.
There is a danger in critique, in being over critical. The crit undermines the notion of a Work of Art, a Masterpiece, True Beauty. It has a tendency to focus on fault and not the presence of perfection. I find this a fault in myself- always an active mind searching for improvement. It is dangerous, dare I say it wrong? For how can one always finding faults and ever being a tinge dissatisfied be respected or cherished or the work of such a foe? If artists themselves can not find pure elation in Art how on earth shall the rest of society? You may say it is the real work of the Artist to be critical and critical thinking does truthfully make for better work. At what point does it inhibit us and our ilk?
What do you think?
This photo of bowls I tracked back through various re-postings to http://gotasalviento.tumblr.com/ but nowhere along the way was an artist stated. It is so important to give credit where credit is due, always. So if you know this maker let me know! For as you will see I have a great deal of reverence for these stackers. It seems everyone is compiling and curateing lists and boards and collections online these days. I soon will be hoping on board and using such online organizers such as pintrest, that currently use too much data for my monthly internet allotment. Before such venues existed I made specific notes of pots and sites by hand. It is getting easier and easier to make nice sets. Nazara, the founder of the site I traced this photo back to (Oye Nazara- site your posts!) Says,” I enjoy making ephemeral collections”. I prefer real ones but lack the space, time or money to spread my prying tendrils very far into physical ownership. I have a collection of jugs well under way… One a year! Just as methodically random Nazara has become subject of this blog by coincidence so is the was we collect blog feeds and photos and words on the net- almost arbitrary. Click, click, click. Load. I feel the same way about esthetic choices. With such boundless potential a direction can be taken anywhere, with endless stimulation inspiration can be fond anywhere. It is best to let the destination not runneth trip. An artist so hell-bent on producing a preconceived thing will suffer- for designers do not make but us potters, designers everyone make in the capacity of artists. I am at times greater part designer and as maker then one who pummels and pushes clay into the theory my mind has molded- mainly with exhibition work and with my studio work I meander and explore an develop. It is most important that we develop. When looking at work- say these blows and plates- I always wonder as to the makers path. The decisions and story and process of a work intrigue me as much as more than the result. But all we have is the result before us.
This ensemble evokes thoughts of sand dunes and sea grass challenged by strong winds and grey skies. I can almost hear the sound of the crashing surf and see the sandstone cliffs rising in the distance at the other end of the inlet. I can almost feerhyme sunscreen in my sure and the cold whip at my cheeks. Or not.
Color is something many people can’t get past. (Do you have it in blue…?) I am from time to time a person who hones in on color- it can be a memory trigger as strong as smell. These pots make me smell the sea with out and blatant over done seaside references (thank goodness!). They could easily also be the desert night on the verge of dawn. Cereal bowl?
These “stackers” as I’ve deemed them, stack splendidly. Nestle. I do not fear for chipped rim nor foot. Let’s put them in the cupboard! But how would my fork sound on that surface? Would that matt exterior suffer the silver marks of fork or spoon, as matt surfaces so often do?
Is that slight speckle to akin to spackle? Just think of all those beige office buildings and cheap appartments.
I also fear for that inner curve of the more shallow bowl. The continuity of the inner curve of a bowl is key to a harmonious form. Beginners beware- pay the utmost heed to the inside of your bowl as it is what informs and ultimately shapes the silhouette. Firstly perfect the inside then the outside always checking the inside where the exterior side clay supports walls/base for this is the spot what will hinder your inside continuity. This bowl’s interior may be choppy but not distinct enough. This is what I find over and over. If two edges are opposed or an ungracious line is at work, make it distinct. Unsure changes in motion do nothing for the eye, hand or lip. This is also a key thing to understand- all appearances are due to a change in speed or motion or pressure (pinched as these pots might be, slump molded
as these pots might be).
The smaller bowls due their depth and steep rising sides do not suggest discontinuity inside.
I feel as though I’ve been hiding. Harboring some wonderful little secret. Situationally I am always in a situation where I make and work and work in depths of studio and brain, then leave to start anew. There is nothing like leaving to encourage production! I photograph work, send it to galleries and it’s never to be seen or critiqued or admired or thought about via its physicality by those important to me. I am, for the time being, in love with this previous round of work! In love! This is a seldomly prolonged feeling given the cynical maker in me. (There is an internal nagging perfectionist who quotes “You are only as good as your last body of work” and a persistent pragmatist that knows my next work may always be an improvement. The realist in me knows that each body of work stands alone and that there is in essence no sequence denoting goodness, change being the only constant thus lateral comparisons, though convenient and comforting, are false). These pots though have stood the test of time. A whole two months of contemplation. I’ve been living with pots that came out of the kiln quick and hot in April, were sanded and would have been instantly sent off with the rest had I not resolved to study them further. I am the sort to put a pot on a shelf, to get it down everyday, look at it, think about it, put it back on the shelf, and do so again and again for the rest of eternity attempting to understand and interpret and enjoy it to the fullest. This is incredibly unrealistic especially for a maker who exists on turnover. It is not very impractical for a collector or curator. I am in my heart of hearts both.
I had a difficult Spring making new forms and asking tough questions about ceramics and my need to make this work, always considering surface and the countless commitments in making. It was also a joy. I am at home on the wheel, challenged by hand built appendages and forever enjoy stooping to mix chemicals clad in mask and gumboots. For all my cognitive deliberating and verbal bashing of the bigger picture I hope always my joy of making is present in a work and in your notion if my practice.
Studio etc.: Updates on studio work pictures and anecdotes posted up all about the secret life of potters, this one in particular.
Porn: Pots I just can’t get enough of. This suggestion was given sarcastically (or perhaps in all seriousness!!) by a friend when I asked what would keep him interested in my blog. Oddly enough he hit the nail on the head. Blogs need eye candy- appropriate organismically lush pots posted under this category!
Remember that all images lead you to their source and links are indicated by grey text.