Better off Ted, Heavy Plate Problems

“As head of research and development at soulless conglomerate Veridian Dynamics, conflicted single father Ted attempts to balance his personal code of ethics with each of his immoral assignments, like freezing co-workers or weaponizing pumpkins.” In this episode Ted nixes a project for an indestructible plate that is first to heavy and then later bursts into flame on impact. So witty is the script. So witty. You must love plate humour.


“How much does this weigh? (9 pounds 4 ounes). Guys, it doesn’t have to take a bullet. What kind of dinner parties do you go to? Make a lighter plate.”

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.

Critique: Rolf Plates

To have a conversation about these plates (featured below in yesterday’s post) we must speak firstly to their functionality. This is the case with all pottery. The pot has to work (pour liquid, contain grain, protect contents) and if it doesn’t have to work, the not working is its function. With “pottery” comes many conventions and parameters, long established through centuries of making and using, a potter must work with in to have a piece deemed as such. It is these constrictive parameters that I, as a potter, enjoy working around and in spite of. They prove challenging and make for fulfilling hard-earned successes. It is these parameters that embitter any sculptor or ceramic beginner when asked to make a pot that functions in the most formal and strictest sense. I argue it is the strength of the art to with hold these standards and still reach true expressiveness through conceptual means. Contemporary pottery is challenged by a history of traditional functionality in the sense of its structure. To create unique good work within this finitely structured and ancient system of art is an incredible feat and a dubious endeavor. The processes used in pottery are a great governing agent, but foremost is the intended use of a piece. (I say intended use because users are ingenious. I lived in a place where the most beautiful jug was used as a bedroom door stop. I’ve seen pots used at the top of thatched huts to disperse water at the apex. I love using floppy disks as coasters. Creative uses cause feedback loops to manufactures and makers that can alter productions, forms and functions of any item.) One hears the term “form and function” in ceramics all the time. This is because the  two are intimately connected you can not speak of one without the other. Let’s take these thoughts with us when chatting about Rolf’s plates.

The plates are pictured in the post below laden with a sumptuous dinner. To serve a fine meal is certainly one of their functions. How do they manage? Quite well by the looks of things. One clear visual strength of these two plates are the distinct broad rims that both visually and physically separate  food from the table. The change of texture and color from rim to inner plate is in both cases suave and effective. I am fond of uncovering something new and unexpected as I eat. There is no distinct physical ledge or drop from rim to inner plate. I have had users before dislike this as food can take a tumble. I, however, reckon that folks can just mind where and how they fill their fork. What’s your preference?

What do you think of the thickness of the rim edges?

What do you think of the patterns and colors, clay body choice, throwing lines, textures?

How do all these esthetic choices affect serving and food choices?

What do you think of the salmon and rice below? Good choice?

Are neutral pallets as in these plates advantageous as they are compatible with many food colors?

Are these everyday plates?

Studio Et Cetera: New Work!

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.