Contemporary Functional Pottery: A Discussion of Handmade Pottery by 11 Working Potters Available for Download
If you enjoy hearing the perspectives of other potters, you’ll really enjoy our latest free gift Contemporary Functional Pottery: A Discussion of Handmade Pottery by 11 Working Potters. Today, we are presenting an excerpt from it in which Tina Gebhart discusses what it means to make functional, utilitarian pottery in the contemporary world.
Today we are presenting an excerpt from the December 2009 issue of Ceramics Monthly in which several potters included in the 2009 Strictly Functional Pottery National discuss what functional pottery means to them and the qualities necessary to make their utilitarian work successful.
I value the time it takes to throw each cup and the variation found in
each cup. The work hints more at a practice than a final object. Beyond
that, the cups need to hold liquid of some sort—preferably whiskey.
The addition of a lid or cover on a form adds additional complexity to
the making and the composition of both form and surface that I find
challenging. The covered form allows for play in scale of form and
surface treatments as well.
I am fascinated by the ideas of intended use and actual use. My
intention is to celebrate handmade utilitarian work on two different
levels, both as symbolic objects that affect our lives on a purely
visual level and as objects intended for use.
If I make a piece for function, then it needs to work. Although, I
think that if your main focus is function then a lot of times you leave
little to no room for creativity, which is my first priority in making
I have more questions to ask than to answer, particularly about the
various meanings of function. Is there a distinction between function
and utility? Do we use the word functional when we mean to say
tableware? Is function inextricably linked to food? Is containment an
essential parameter for function? There aren’t necessarily answers; I
am more interested in the conversation.
I think it is important for the pot to clearly speak of function, but I
am not concerned with what the user ultimately puts in it. I did have
in mind the ceremony of preparing, serving, and eating food while
making this piece. For me, the daily ritual of eating and the aspects
involved in getting ready to eat, such as grocery shopping or
gardening, are tied together with making pots.
I think that the challenge of making a bowl lies in achieving the curve
of the bowl and overall balance. I can spend what feels like forever
smoothing that curve at the bottom so it really has no beginning or end
and is just seamless.
I think a user’s awareness of the intended function adds to the piece
and further communicates with the user what I was thinking, but it
doesn’t have to be important for the pot to be enjoyed. There are some
pots I make, particularly the baking dishes, that are intended to move
from oven to table (utility to presentation) in a way that I think
truly enhances them and adds another level of information/communication
with the user. But, it doesn’t bother me if someone prefers to enjoy a
piece for simply its visual aspects; that’s a lovely compliment all on