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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:


A Handmade Clay Coffee Thermos
by Kenyon Hansen


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.


Click to enlarge!

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.


The Process


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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Here’s what else you’ll find in Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery:



Sets of Squares
by Suze Lindsay


Integration of the clay surface and form has always been key to successful handmade pottery, and Suze Lindsay’s brushwork proves that she has carefully and thoroughly considered her approach to this concept. She walks you through not only her techniques for making square dishes, but how she approaches making sets and even selling pottery.

The Function of Pots in Storage
by Gay Smith


What does handmade pottery do when you are not using it? Gay Smith argues that it still has a function, which is to be stored conveniently and efficiently. She explains how to think about pottery design from the perspective of the end users and how they see handmade pottery fitting into their lives—and their cupboards.

Studio Pet, Studio Pottery
by Allen Chen


In this light-hearted anecdote, Chen actually outline a very important part of making handmade pottery, and that is inspiration and ideas. He will make you realize that seemingly unrelated things can come together in the form of pottery that can set you off in a completely new direction of exploration and discovery.



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About Ceramic Arts Daily:


Ceramic Arts Daily is a free online website and newsletter written and produced for the benefit of potters and ceramic artists worldwide. The newsletter features both renowned and emerging artists, their work, techniques and artistic perspectives. Regular features include tips and techniques designed to help every artist expand their skill set and widen their artistic horizons. Ceramic Arts Daily also delivers video tips, in which potters and ceramic artists demonstrate various projects and processes. Think of them as e-workshops!


Ceramic Arts Daily is designed to be interactive, inviting your comments and fostering a community in which each person can contribute to the growth of their own and others’ skills. You may be surprised at what you learn!


Ceramic artists on Ceramic Arts Daily know what ceramic art is all about – from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. This is about community. You’ll be drawn in by artists’ stories, inspired by their work and find confidence to try some of their techniques. With Ceramic Arts Daily, you’ll learn a little bit of everything. Then you can choose the techniques you enjoy the most to create something new!


So start today by downloading our free Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery. Then, get ready for Ceramic Arts Daily to introduce you to new artists and show you new techniques!


No Comments on "Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery"

  1. boris January 31, 2012 at 4:57 am -
  2. Jennifer January 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm -
    I am trying to find a magic water recipe in your archives, but cannot locate it. It is a recipe replacing vinegar, with one of the ingredients being soda ash ( I think). Thanks for your help!

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