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Qotw: Pottery Attributes In The Studio

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Pres    896

A while back, I was wandering through a gallery looking at pottery. It struck me that I had three basic things that attracted me when looking at the pots. Three things that drew my interest to a particular piece, Form, Surface, Size. The I began to wonder, what was it that I concentrated on in the studio. There was not an easy answer to this, as it has changed to some degree over the years. In the 80's I was more interested in form and size. I worked hard to refine forms on the wheel as I learned the wheel and to get the largest forms possible, 30# bowls, 6 foot high thrown forms, 25# lidded jars on down to 1# bottles. Then in the 90's forms became more of a canvas for a sort of majolica. . . painted surfaces over a white glaze. I moved away from this after a while, back to more form with simple colors dipped and poured. Now I find myself impressing texture into unshaped cylinders, and then shaping them from the inside, mostly.

 

So the Question of the week this week is what ceramic attribute drives your work in the studio, is it Form, Surface, Size or some other attribute I have not mentioned. Please, don't just name it, explain why.

 

 

 

 

 

best,

Pres 

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oldlady    1,323

form.  it is the basic foundation of the finished product.  a shape that is pleasing to my eye.  the proportions of the shape are critical.  the ones that i like are similar to the classic architectural designs that are still admired after centuries.  i know there is a term for it but cannot think of it right now, that 3-5-7 are better than 2-4-6 is as close as i can come right now.  gotta think about this.

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Pres    896

I think the term you are looking for is the Golden Mean or sometimes known as the Golden ratio. Has been around since the Greeks, maybe even before.

 

 

best,

Pres

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Mark C.    1,800

Form-function and size. The functionally of the form is a key point for me. The form has to be pleasing to use and the size needs to fit the function .

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GEP    863

My first priority is functionality. My pots need to "earn their keep" in the world, and perform the job they were designed for. This covers size, shape, comfort, balance. Also durability, which covers proper firing and glaze formulations. 

 

Form, in terms of aesthetics, comes next. Then style and surface aesthetics. I am very much a "less is more" person in these areas, which I think is closely tied to functionality. 

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Min    781


Don't know if this qualifies as a ceramic attribute but I think there is always room to improve and that's what keeps me coming back.

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LeeU    330

Surface attributes and the characteristics of the clay/glazes are what draw me to work in clay, rather than paint/wood/metal.  I take my materials as they are, allowing and embracing natural flaws and process, and further introducing rips, cracks, holes, and other stressors and challenges to the clay, which incorporate my world view as an aesthetic.  

 

That tea light holder with the big cracks or that dish with the bloat-bubble is supposed to be that way. I have either chosen to "let it live" or have deliberately made it happen. WYSIWYG. Metaphorically, I am honoring the survivor, and the necessity of "progress, not perfection" that life entails. To me, form and function (re: architech Louis Sullivan's "form ever follows function") are essential for making ceramic art, yet can be expressed as well by a gorgeous pot as by something strangely beautiful from the logic of Peter Voulkos. I hope this doesn't sound like art-speak---it is the best I can do to express myself in response to the question!

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rakukuku    122

Since my work is non functional sculpture I guess the main thing is form. That and communicating some sort of message - usually silly. I just made a gaudy rooster wearing a necktie entitled "Donald Trump Laid an Egg". It has orange hair and an orange egg. I have great admiration for beautiful functional work and buy it from my friends, but just can't seem to do it myself. So I do what I am able to. 

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MatthewV    258

I really enjoy the teaching and technical side of pottery. Now that I have some experience I see a multitude of possibilities in the world. Doing these background steps is what keeps me engaged.

 

In my pottery:

Right now, I would say Surface finish. I see more raised clay, carving, and glaze work in this year. I've been making decorative pieces recently.

There are quite a few ideas revolving around Form but I would rather have them finished in a non-electric kiln.

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glazenerd    816

"other" for me, which I cannot explain without a bunch of techno-blather. Suffice to say I have spent seven year studying every aspect of crystalline glaze and the clay body it goes on. Two + years ago it occurred to me that the porcelain was causing just as much problems as the glaze. This summer I will actually put all that study to use and make things. Unless my calculations are wrong (they are not ) I should see some dramatic results.

 

Nerd

 

side note: of course my throwing skills will have to greatly increase as well.

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Pres    896

Thanks to Mark and Mea, who have reminded me of one of the attributes of pottery that has ruled much of what I have made over the years-I guess the old adage form follows function works well for me also.

 

LeeU, I have been searching of late ways to make my pottery more natural in a sense with both surface and form.

 

MatthewV, you may find a new feature coming on Thursday useful to you and others that teach or would teach others. I have had many fond memories of my classroom years.

 

Rakukuku we all love a good allegorical sculpture. I hope to see some posting of yours soon.

 

Glazenerd, I'm sure we all look forward to seeing the first pieces produced with your new understanding of things crystalline, and your approach to throwing as it improves.

 

best to all,

Pres

 

PS Please post in the Qotw pool if you can come up with a question. Pinned to the top of the Potters Counsel and Benefits area.

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Joseph F    865

Right now for me surface is everything. I think this is mostly because I haven't found where I want to be in my work 100% yet. I think I am probably at the 30% of knowing what I want in my work, and probably 10% at achieving that 30%!

 

Until I am in the 90% area I doubt I will worry to much about anything else. I do have to say that all my pots are well made, balanced, and light weight or else they get trashed. 

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Pres    896

Joseph, first step for me was always having a vague idea of what I wanted the work to look like, then how to get there from where I was at the time I envisioned it. Long way around a lot of times.

 

best,

Pres

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

I think form and surface and size are right on. I have been playing with surface starting with ash glazes, then crystalline, carved porcelain, then functional,architectural work,installations,  then raku, saggar, obvara...but I return to functionality every so often. This is over a 50 year period so I am not as flighty as it sounds.

Marcia

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GiselleNo5    464

I think the three things I focus on are balance, function, and while it might seem like the third is surface decoration, actually what I'm seeking is texture. 

 

Balance: If a pitcher is large and holds a lot of liquid, I want the handle to not only physically be able to handle the weight, but visually balance the form. I don't want it to look or feel like it might break off when full. I only put "one finger" handles on mugs that hold 8 ounces or less. If a mug holds 24 ounces, the handle is made large enough for 3-4 fingers and I make the top of the handle straight so it can be used to brace the thumb and counter the weight of the liquid. I like my handles to mimic the form they're on but almost as a caricature, and I like to place them "growing" from an angle or a corner if possible. 

 

Function: I love other peoples' non-functional work but I only enjoy making functional pieces myself. (The opposite place from where rakukuku finds herself). It's important to me that if a piece is intended to be functional that it be pleasant to use. No sharp edges, raspy slip trailing or carving, no wobbly bottoms or cracks. I love to leave surfaces raw but I glaze the handle and lip of mugs with clear so it's pleasant to the hands and lips. My pet peeve is functional pieces that are not usable or are not safe to use with food, for example if a piece is so sculptural that all function is eclipsed. JUST MAKE IT A SCULPTURE! There are, of course, exceptions but this is true for the most part. 

 

Texture: Probably my favorite thing to do in the whole world is carve leather hard clay. I also like to leave some clay unglazed to contrast with the bright, glossy vibrant colors of the glaze. It was all about smooth white stoneware even a year and a half ago but I have moved increasingly away from that and I now use five different clay bodies, about to add a sixth when I can get my hands on some Basaltic from Aardvark. I love glazes that break and change around texture, and I can tell you what every single one of the glazes I use does with both carving and raised texture like slip trailing. Another of my favorite things in the world to do is to run my fingers over texture in fabric, wood, ceramic, you name it. If I dislike a texture I will actually "wipe" the unpleasant feeling off my hand. 

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Chilly    329

 

 If I dislike a texture I will actually "wipe" the unpleasant feeling off my hand. 

 

Oh yes, me too.  Sitting here cringing with the thought of some yukky textures.

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Chilly    329

Form has to be the thing for me.  Thick, misshapen, out-of-balance, puts me off.  Delicate, flowing, graceful makes me smile.

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It's definitely form here, and then surface. Mostly when I start a new object (handbuilding), I know exactly how it should look like in the end. There is some room, while working on the object, to alter the form a bit, but not much. Quite the opposite with surface. I seem to never can stop adding or removing surface texture...

 

Evelyne

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Pres    896

Marcia, as I started with clay in 1970, undergrad, I still have a few years to go to see the golden mark. I hope that I can be as vibrant and as active as you are when I have had 50 years of claywork under my belt.

 

Ann, I too like flowing rounded forms. Of late I lean towards inflating the form as full as I can get it without it completely collapsing. . . sometimes to the point of minor holes appearing in the surface.

 

Giselle, often what we admire is not what we make. I look at many pieces in galleries that are so well done like beautiful round crystalline glazed bottles or raku pieces that have fabulous natural cracking surfaces or Wood fired pots with the flow of the flame eternally etched in the surface. . .in awe and speechless to be able to describe how I feel. However, at this point in time they are not what I would do, or can do. I make some semi sculptural pieces that appeal to me, but mostly functional pieces for others and my family to use. 

 

Evelyne, Form and surface, often when I had build I have a vision also, because I often handbuild with small slab pieces pieced together the form also becomes the surface. This is often the case where the finished pot looks more like a natural cliff face than a pot.

 

best,

Pres

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

"other" for me, which I cannot explain without a bunch of techno-blather. Suffice to say I have spent seven year studying every aspect of crystalline glaze and the clay body it goes on. Two + years ago it occurred to me that the porcelain was causing just as much problems as the glaze. This summer I will actually put all that study to use and make things. Unless my calculations are wrong (they are not ) I should see some dramatic results.

 

Nerd

 

side note: of course my throwing skills will have to greatly increase as well.

 

 

I'll anxiously await your post with pictures of your successes! 

Have a great Sping then summer.

Marcia

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oldlady    1,323

i just realized that nobody has mentioned blowing up a bottle.  those of us with 30/40 years experience may remember the forms with the overblown balloon look and tiny neck.  pres and marcia's commemts make me remember that phase of working.

 

to make them, we threw a bottle shape and then used our breath to "blow up" the clay shape.  if the clay was evenly thrown, if we had enough air in our lungs, if there was no weak spot somewhere, then the bottle would expand evenly all the way around.  a quick wipe with a wet cloth and our lips were clean.  a quick touch-up to the neck straightened it.  you can imagine what happened if there was a weak spot or if the clay was too thickly thrown.

 

try it sometime.

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Pres    896

Old Lady, good reminder, never done it, but remember it.

 

best,

Pres

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Pres posed:

So  what ceramic attribute drives your work in the studio, is it Form, Surface, Size or some other attribute I have not mentioned? ... don't just name it, explain why.
 
Short answer: Ambiguity & Story

'Cause:

I make pieces that allow  viewers (users) to create a story from what the they 'think' they see.  Surface, form, size, texture, color, etc. are just data to be interpreted by the viewer.
 
Present the minimum amount of data so that the viewer can create her (his) own story(ies); my story does not matter. 
 
Think like an artist, execute like an engineer. 
Know the limitations but be willing to test those limits.  As the very old ad line said, "Try it, you'll like it ..."  plus "it's only dirt" are the guidelines for the studio.
 
Sometimes a notion (or concept) of a story leads to interesting pots; as are questions regarding non-standard techniques -- such as laminating native sandy clay bodies onto porcelain drinking vessels or using cone 04 clay bodies as glaze on cone 10 ware.
 
'Experiments' produce pots - until boredom intervenes and inspires a switch to another line of inquiry. 
 
Basically, I start with a 'hunk' of clay and go from there.  A small lump will be squeezed into a shape nicknamed 'critter'; a larger lump may be thrown into a bowl or bottle shape and then ....

 

Size is constrained by kiln size, drying time, storage space.  

My most often used initial forms are drinking cylinders, bottles, bowls, and "warped" slabs.  
 
As regards function, I was trained that any object is a hammer, except the screwdriver; it is a chisel! 

i.e., function is assigned by the user, not the maker.
 
LT

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GiselleNo5    464

 

 

 If I dislike a texture I will actually "wipe" the unpleasant feeling off my hand. 

 

Oh yes, me too.  Sitting here cringing with the thought of some yukky textures.

 

 

Polyester knit. The shiny stuff. Ooh, I have goosebumps all over just thinking about it. :( 

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