This instructional video not only provides insight into the techniques and processes behind Matt Long’s signature drinking vessels, but also reveals the passion and philosophy behind the work. While sharing his reasons for making functional pottery, his influences, as well as his perspectives on life, family and friendship, Long demonstrates techniques used for making his cups, whiskey jugs, hip flasks and bourbon bottles.
Long explains that the concept for the “Victory Series” drinking vessels developed after a particularly good conversation over a glass of whiskey with a graduate-school friend. The work is about camaraderie, friendship and community. He intends for his drinking vessels to be used in times of celebration. Some of the forms are inspired by 1940s water bottles, while others reference the history of liquor production in southern Appalachian states.
Runtime: 62 min. | Presented by Lucky Dog Productions
Produced by Matthew Mickelson and Leigh Taylor Mickelson
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Using the transformative qualities of porcelain, along with the potential of line, gesture and movement, Long guides us through his entire creative process. Beginning with mugs, he demonstrates his unconventional way of working with porcelain-he prefers that his pieces have a sturdy visual weight. He explains that, in his eyes, a good mug is aesthetically pleasing, yet it is something that “can be thrown on the floor of your truck.”
After demonstrating his throwing and altering techniques for a variety of his vessels, Long moves on to heavy slip application. The video concludes with a Cone 10 soda firing and a gallery tour showing finished pieces.
Establishing contact with others through the medium of a vessel is a process that one might easily characterize as expressive, as paralleling, in other words, the way in which artists are sometimes said to “speak” to the viewer through their work. Long, however, is less concerned with conveying a personal communication than with relating the general message that his vessels are produced through direct involvement of the human hand. While he professes no aversion to the products of modern technology, he believes that the handmade vessel adds an element of uniqueness to the experience of use that no mass-manufactured object can match. “I think that people sometimes confuse quality with convenience,” he explains. “I’m not after convenience, and I’m not trying to compete with industry. I only want to suggest that there are aspects of experience beyond what machine-made objects like paper cups or Tupperware pitchers can provide.”
The triggers for enhanced experience are unquestionably the surfaces of Long’s work, which are given their distinctive textures through the loose application of a heavy slip. Dipping the vessel in the slip bucket then centering it and revolving it on the wheel, Long employs his fingers to create horizontal trailings over which gravity produces additional variation in the form of thick drips. In other cases, the slip is applied with a brush in long, vertical strokes as the vessel is held inverted. In the finished pieces, the ridges and depressions of the surface are explored by the user’s fingers, which seek a particular fit-an action that Long characterizes as part of bond formation between person and object. This action is facilitated, of course, by the fact that Long has left the marks of his own fingers on the work. At the same time, his intention is that the user reflect upon his or her personal act of grasping the vessel, something not ordinarily done when one holds an anonymously manufactured form.
Matt received an MFA degree from Ohio University in 1997. Long is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. He exhibits his work extensively in the U.S. and presents numerous workshops. He is a member of the Potters Council and was featured in the January 2004 issue of Ceramics Monthly. Download the FREE article