Potters have been making pots for a long time, and they have been thinking about what it means to make pots for a long time, but in Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery, we have asked several makers of contemporary pottery about specific pottery forms they make and why. Pottery made by hand requires conscious decision making about design, form, surface integration, materials, and techniques at every step in the process — and for every single pot — so each combination can results in completely different results. Handmade pottery can mean different things to different people, and these contemporary potters all bring something insightful to the table.
Here is an excerpt from Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery:
Last year, I worked in Matt Kelleher and Shoko Teruyama’s studio in the mountains of western North Carolina. During the winter months, I was unable to drive to the studio because of the heavy snowfall and steep winding driveway, so I walked. Each morning I would pack a lunch and fill a thermos with coffee or tea for the long studio day ahead. The long trek gave me time to think about the pots I would make that day. After a while, I recognized my own habit of carrying the thermos and I began thinking about the challenges and possibilities it could hold as an object made of clay.
I enjoyed solving the problems of making double-walled vessels. The technical challenges made the process of invention fun. Brainstorming several possible ways to create a thermos, and the consequential failures and learning curve kept me actively involved in the process. In the end, though, with the technical problems resolved, I am much more interested in the aesthetic issues and the roles such pots play in our lives.
Finely crafted, thoughtfully made pottery can contribute to a renaissance of tradition and habit. My hope is that the pots I make can play a role and be a factor in a renewal of ritual. I strive to create pottery that is both considered and balanced, containing a healthy dose of spirit and care.
Many of the forms I’m interested in are built around the act of consuming and sharing liquids. I make coffee pots, lidded pitchers, teapots, and thermos sets. Part of my interest in these forms revolves around how much I enjoy drinking coffee and tea. I am very curious to explore how these forms function. I find it challenging to build such complex pots, with so many different elements needing to harmonize, allowing it to function both visually and physically. Clay allows me to play with the physical language of these forms. When I throw or handbuild, I’m engaged in the conversation. Curiosity often pushes the dialog, while the desire to find something new guides me forward.
I start off by throwing two cylinders. The first is made with a flange at the base. After I measure it with calipers, I throw the second cylinder about two inches taller, and make the interior about ½ of an inch wider than the exterior of the first. Once they have set up a bit, I slide the larger over the smaller one and connect them at the base. Next, I roll a coil and connect the two walls inside at the top of the inner wall. The pot then goes back to the wheel where I collar in the neck above the double wall and finish the forming at the top. I throw a ridge in the shoulder to fit the lip of a mug, and I measure that before I throw the mug to fit the ridge. Once everything fits, I add texture, line, and handles to both the mug and thermos.
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