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This week is ad interesting question that I posted into the question bank recently. However it is not mine, as Lou sent it to me in a PM when the forum ICAN network was locked. So he asks Aside from a nearby sign, hangtag, or stuck-on label, how do you determine whether a specific pot was handmade or not? ( or substitute for "handmade": wood fired, soda fired, Raku, ...) I will rephrase his question to read:

 

When looking at pottery, how do your determine or identify whether the pot was handmade, and what type of construction and firing was used to create it?

 

 

I have often had problems identifying pottery that is thrown or slab, poured or otherwise. I find that often I feel the inside of the form to see if there are throwing ridges, or look at the bottom to see how the trimming was done, but often get thrown off. My main way of finding a "tell" is to talk to the potter if he is available, or the clerk if in a gallery. With a matter of a few questions, discussions of firing temperature, differences in slab rollers, and wheels, throwing speeds, clay weights. . . . . . all of my questions are answered with certainty. Some of them do leave me lacking as the persons level of expertise does not match that of the pot, this when talking to the potter. Sometimes I have to further research the potter, to understand more of what I would wish to know, especially when my original queries were with a clerk, not the potter.

 

I used to have high respect for a local potter and professor in our area. This gentleman did very large. . 24-36" platters in redware, slip decorated in traditional decoration. I always admired his ability to throw these platters with throwing marks and nice transparent glazes, even though I was not into redware. We had discussed the ability to center and throw larger amounts of clay for the platters, and he always would carry a good conversation. Later on in my career, I attended a workshop where he demonstrated making the large platters. He placed a large plaster form on the wheel using bat pins, rolled out a large slab using a slab roller, and then proceeded to fit the slab to the form, using his fingers to run throwing marks into the slab and to firm the shape up to the form. Threw a foot ring on the bottom, and then set it aside to stiffen up while he proceeded to demonstrate slip trail design using a template for division marks. I guess I am a purist, and felt I had been deceived. In the end, looking at a piece How do you really identify it?

 

best,

Pres

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Guest JBaymore

Pres, you gave me a segue-way for a pet peeve.........

 

There was, (and I believe still is) a pretty well-known "production" ceramist whose work is seen in 'handcraft' shops and galleries all over the USA.  Truly stunning glazes. Nice forms. 

 

For years I made a point of going into shops that handled that work and talked to the salespeople in the places.  In 99.99999% of cases I carefully got explained about how each piece  was hand thrown on a potters wheel.   Problem was......... it was jiggered, jollied, and hydraulic pressed wares.  When I explained to the salespeople how to identify that.... they typically were "shocked",  BUT... the shops kept on selling the work after that.

 

It was made using molds that had all of the hallmarks of "hand work throwing".   Captured the feel perfectly.  Except that every piece was basically identical in the "details" and the precise size of the forms.  Only a potter who knows what to  look for would even notice this.

 

It captured the "feel" very well.  Great.  Nice way to create a decent pot that has a good "feel", but use lower skilled production people, and lower cost per piece production methods. 

 

But the real question becomes.... WHY is this being done this way? 

 

Where for me this goes wrong.... is in that the genesis of the object was not appropriately disclosed, given that there could be some confusion about this.  The objects were deliberately marketed in settings in which the customer expected more traditional handwork, not industrial revolution level techniques.  It was not being sold in something like maybe a department store with other more industrial-ish production oriented ceramic work.  Gallery sales personnel were not informed about the objects they were selling.  There were no hang-tags clarifying the source.  The pricing was not any less than what one would expect from high-touch skilled forming techniques.  The perception was created that this was hand-thrown work by skilled clay workers who knew how to throw.

 

The point is "truth in advertising" for me.

 

I just bought a very nice cup in England that was formed by jollying with a slip-cast handle applied.  I paid a decent price for that work that had STUNNING decoration with on-glaze painting on it.  It is a great cup.  It is a pleasure to look at and use.  Form is nice, well balanced, handle works well.  I have NO issue with the fact that the cup form was not "hand-thrown, or hand-built.  The setting in which I purchased it was completely up-front about their forming techniques for various pieces.  I knew exactly what I was buying.

 

 

best,

 

..............john

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I think that really the best way to be able to identify various techniques is to handle as many kinds of pottery as possible. I have done some slip casting, also slip casting is the most common form of ceramics readily available, so I recognize this very quickly. Much work being sold now at places like Target is being made deliberately to look "handmade" by adding imperfections; but the imperfections are all in the same places which is a dead giveaway. 

 

My friend does a lot of work with slab building and pinching so I have handled a lot of both. Generally slab building is done with simpler forms and tends to have some warping and have more of an asymmetrical shape to it. Pinching leaves at least some unevenness that can be felt by running hands over the piece inside and out. 

 

Wheel thrown pieces feel more dense to me. Also most of them have some kind of repetitive marking, whether throwing rings or marks from trimming tools, that show the spinning as the piece was formed and worked on. I actually like to leave some throwing rings on the interior both to make the glaze do interesting things over the slight texture, and to mark it indubitably as handmade. 

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john, i am very familiar with the work you describe so accurately.  the man who makes this stuff tried to sell the whole shebang years ago and i do not know if he was successful at that.  it is/was  made in pennsylvania.  the glaze work is spectacular on some of the pieces, reminding me of mark cortright's colorful pieces.  i have one of these, a 5 inch tall piece that has a handmade look and maybe even was.   i got it in the 1970s at a fair in maryland and still love the colors.

 

everytime i see the work in a shop i tell the owner that it is not really handmade work.  some are surprised, most find the info unimportant.  they have a reliable source of work that sells and that is all that matters.

post-2431-0-47053100-1502744463_thumb.jpg

Edited by oldlady

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thank you for starting this with that title.  i have recently found a piece in a thrift shop that is to me, remarkable.  there is texture to the exterior that makes it appear to be made in a basket.   the basket must have been made of paper because it is so thin.  distinctly woven but thin.    it is very fragile and has a long crack running down from the lip.  i have put it in a safe spot where is should not be touched by anyone or knocked down by the cat.  does anyone recognize what this could be? 

post-2431-0-42538100-1502745783_thumb.jpg

post-2431-0-20149800-1502745800_thumb.jpg

Marcia Selsor likes this

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I say well made pottery is well made pottery whether by man or machine. This comes down to design, clay, glaze fit, and decoration. I go thrift store shopping and antiquing regularly. I always swing by the dishes and vase areas. Most is slip cast and jigger/ jollied. I can just tell I do pottery. I some times am fooled or unsure and then one gasp in the hand one turn to look at the foot and boom not hand made. Mold lines are a dead give away. A stamp, made in china sticker, decals (maybe handmade not hand painted). I use my wedding ring to tap the object so I can get a feel for the clay and vitrification of it. I have came across some nice functional handmade pottery that made the thud sound( this does not live up to good pottery in my opinion). I do come across handmade items frequently. Most are student level and easily recognizable as handmade. I give these pots my critique. I do come across fine handmade porcelain and stoneware from time to time. One of my favorite finds is a Frank Vigland cup. This cup is signed and some others are not. But like I said well made pottery is well made pottery. Living in the southwest there is a market for Southwestern and Native American themed pottery. Most of these items are slipcast and hand decorated and signed. Tons of people buy this stuff. I however do not own a single piece of this type of pottery it does not meet my criteria. I will say if you like it; fantastic! However shame on those who deceive.

 

Pres: One of my mentors makes platters (30-34") in this same manner. He use to throw them but has got up in years and is going for 1000 of them. It works for him to use the hump molds these days. All are carefully hand decorated and glazed. So admire and appreciate his work and him.

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What?, 

It is not the idea of the platter being made that way, but the idea that he deliberately deceived the way he did it. If he had said that he did them as canvasses for slip trailed design, and had made certain there were not throwing marks. . . different feeling on my part so a different story to be told.

 

 

best,

Pres

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Pres,

Jiggering is an old process. It is still hand jiggered.

The original question was 

How Do You Identify Pottery?

To me, I now know enough to know that it is stoneware. earthenware, salt glazed, wood fired, raku  to electric mid-high fire, 

It come with the awareness of what the options are in clay.

 

Marcia

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Guest JBaymore

 

Jiggering is an old process. It is still hand jiggered.

 

 

Yes it is....... early industrial revolution or slightly before , depending on how you define both terms.

 

However, I have taught people to use a jigger unit in less than a day....to make pieces that if they were handbuilt or thrown would take years to gain the skill to do that.  It is not "high touch" by any means. 

 

Can make nice pots if the molds are good designs..... but .................

 

When I make press molded bottles... I call them just that.  Not slab built bottles.  Not hand built bottles.

 

Again.... truth in advertising.

 

best,

 

.....................john

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I do believe in honesty with ones work, whether it be for sale to a customer, as a gift to a friend, or and entry into a show. The onus here is to represent yourself as you are. If you are a decorator, so be it, a wheel thrower, that too, a handbuilder-certainly, but in the end don't present yourself as something you are not. Like the bad pot that you sold, your identity could come back and bite you. I like to sleep well at night, to do otherwise would not allow me to.

 

 

best,

Pres

GiselleNo5 likes this

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thank you for starting this with that title.  i have recently found a piece in a thrift shop that is to me, remarkable.  there is texture to the exterior that makes it appear to be made in a basket.   the basket must have been made of paper because it is so thin.  distinctly woven but thin.    it is very fragile and has a long crack running down from the lip.  i have put it in a safe spot where is should not be touched by anyone or knocked down by the cat.  does anyone recognize what this could be? 

 

Some people make carving like this actually. There is a potter on Etsy who does the most incredible carving that if you did not SEE him doing it, you would think he must have used a mold. I'll try to find a link to one of his videos. 

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thank you for starting this with that title.  i have recently found a piece in a thrift shop that is to me, remarkable.  there is texture to the exterior that makes it appear to be made in a basket.   the basket must have been made of paper because it is so thin.  distinctly woven but thin.    it is very fragile and has a long crack running down from the lip.  i have put it in a safe spot where is should not be touched by anyone or knocked down by the cat.  does anyone recognize what this could be?

 

 

Some people make carving like this actually. There is a potter on Etsy who does the most incredible carving that if you did not SEE him doing it, you would think he must have used a mold. I'll try to find a link to one of his videos.

The marks look too regular to be carved. Even the most precise carvers I've seen aren't this tight. I'd guess some kind of jiggering or mold process, but I'd kind of want to handle it in person to be able to say for sure.

 

Sometimes there's "tells" in the rims and the feet, in the feel of the cross section, in the way the glaze breaks. Attachment points, and anywhere you'd have to pay attention to a design decision or detail. Why was that specific kind of foot chosen, and is there a hint of a finger mark somewhere, or is it entirely too clean or precise? Is it truly irregular, or as Gisselle said, is that "mistake" recurring?

 

I've tried to watch as many people make pots in as many different ways over the years as I can, and I try an apply those observations to the pot in front of me. I ask myself what would be the most expedient method of achieving the result in that piece, using the technology that is most likely available.

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Guest JBaymore

Hum.........  when we really get into the intent behind the original question..........

 

The "giveaway" mark of "handcrafting" (whatever that actually means) is not "imperfection" or "asymmetry" or "loss of full control".  Incredible precision and refinement are possible thru skilled handwork. What I and others call "high touch".

 

Look at Yixing teapots for a great example of amazing levels of handbuilding skills.  Not an imperfection..... tolerances in the single millimeter level....... when desired, symmertry that rivals machined metal pieces,......... consistent wall cross sections in the 1/8" range, and so on.  Sometimes sculptural treatments that totally fool the eye as to the material used.... with wood that should burn and insects that should crawl away.

 

They are also fired to perfection.  Not a blemish when not desired.

 

When you stand there in Yixing and watch a craftsperson making one........ you quickly realize how little you know about making objects out of clay.

 

best,

 

......................john

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callie and giselle, if you look at the second picture closely, you can see the texture at the edges of the bowl.  the crack runs through an area in the center where a flaw can be seen.  this whole pot is extremely thin and lightweight, i can see the possibility of a woven basket bowl being used as a model for a plaster slump mold.  the thinness suggests a very quickly emptied pouring mold.  the interior shows that it had been dipped in the glaze because of the runs where the pot was placed on its foot to dry.

 

all i know is that it knocked my socks off when i found it.  i happily gave my $1 to the cashier and said i would take it as is, no wrapping in paper or putting it into a bag.  it rode home nestled in a huge bath towel on the floor behind my seat in the car.

 

sure wish someone knows what it is.

Edited by oldlady
GiselleNo5 and Marcia Selsor like this

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My favorite pots are the ones that stump me as to process ... sometimes the answers to how they were done have been ridiculously simple and other times unbelievable in the breadth of talent and familiarity with their medium.

 

Just for fun, here are images of the simple one and the difficult one.

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post-1585-0-43804800-1502826317_thumb.jpg

LeeU likes this

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I can very generally rely on what I (think) I know from experience, education, and exposure, to date, discerning among, as Marcia notes,  "... stoneware. earthenware, salt glazed, wood fired, raku  to electric mid-high fire..." in the fairly common pottery that crosses my path. But my knowledge is way too rudimentary to discern identifiers in "high touch" ware, such as John's example of Yixing teapots, and I have limited exposure to ceramics as it is. I do get a kick out of being able to be pretty certain about a technique, a firing method, a clay body, a glaze etc., just to dazzle my non-clay-making friends who know "nothing" and therefore think I know "something" LOL.

GiselleNo5 likes this

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