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Mark C.

Are Functional Potters going the way of the dodo?

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In light of some of the discussion in this thread about what art schools are or are not teaching, I thought I'd paste this assignment sheet of mine in here for my Wheelworking II course (wheel course taken after the wheel introduction in the Intro level courses).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

best,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

CER 203 Wheelworking II

 

 

 

New Hampshire Institute of Art Spring 2012

 

 

 

 

Professor: John Baymore

 

 

 

 

February 8, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matched Set - Handled Drinking Vessels / Mugs

 

 

 

 

This next assignment is building directly off of the information and discussions about the three clear, close-up images of handled thrown drinking vessels that you selected and brought into class today for a short presentation and discussion. It is also building off of the information that you learned from addressing the recent “beginnings and endings (feet and lips)†assignment and also the “shaping the center with intent†assignment. Of course, all of these recent assignments have been building upon the core mechanically-based “moving the clay†skills that you have developed in doing so many early simple “pulling cylinders†exercises.

 

 

You are to thoughtfully create a set of four (as an absolute minimum) matching handled mugs/cups. These final four presented pieces should be as visually identical as you can possibly make them in all aspects of their design, both form and eventual finish-fired surface. This includes the overall clay weight distribution in the pieces (physical balance). They should also function well as drinking vessels for a hot liquid. As you approach this project, think of a three-dimensional Xerox copy machine (or the Star Trek replicator unit) being used to recreate the selected original piece you have chosen as the most successful variation of your overall design explorations.

 

 

This lofty idea is a target working goal for what would represent an absolutely excellent level of final outcome. Do not allow less than such “identical†outcomes to derail the highly important repetitive development process; work in multiples and carefully consider each iteration of the forms. Sketch and digitally record developing forms. Keep the successful aspects of one form, and change the less successful aspects. Move forward with intent and not just vague repetition. You will face challenges with this project; rise to them! That effort will pay off in your future projects also.

 

 

Core objectives for this particular assignment include:

 

 

 

  • The ability to consistently move clay into a given desired form, building core throwing skills.
  • Refining the ability to visually discern subtle variations in form and surface.
  • Understanding and utilizing the concept of tightly “working in seriesâ€.
  • The ability to re-compose one form into another, improving formal design aspects with intent.
  • Utilizing considered surface treatment(s) to assist in unifying overall visual composition.
  • Focusing on the functional dictates of a handled drinking vessel.
  • Balancing the demands of design creativity with the potential constraints of functionality.
  • Demonstrating an intent-ful approach to the production of ceramic objects.

 

These four matching pieces should clearly represent a blend of considerations for both visual aesthetic appeal and also of functional drinking and washing-up necessities. As a constraint imposed by this class, you are to keep in mind an American, coffee or tea drinking audience for these works. So the scale should be appropriate to typical average American drinking habits. These are not to be handle-less “teabowls†or “yuniomiâ€, nor very small demitasse or espresso type cups. For simplicity, they are also not to be paired “coffee cups with saucersâ€; that added challenge will be a project for another day.

 

 

These pieces must be made completely of fired clay, slip, and glaze materials (no mixed media), and the main body of the pieces must be thrown (as at least a starting point). The pieces may have textures or slips applied to the wet clay, if desired. Any of the stock class glazes may be utilized for the Orton cone 9 finish firing, but do consider glaze surface functionality in this regard. The attached handle on these mugs can be created by any forming techniques you might choose, but they must have a handle.

 

 

Carefully consider all functional aspects as well as the visual aspects. Pieces must be durable in the food serving arena. Handles must function to easily hold the weight of liquid. Lips must be comfortable to drink from. Forms must be conducive to the flow of liquid in the correct manner. The balance point must be comfortable. Interior glazes must be cleanable and toxicologically safe.

 

 

As a possible starting point, consider what you learned from the last two assigmnents and in the associated critique sessions. The nature of general overall forms and also beginning and ending solutions that both you and others developed during those projects might help you approach this assignment so that you “hit the ground runningâ€.

 

 

As we have discussed in our various critique sessions, “I like this†or “I love this†is not a sufficient reason to make justifiable conscious visual or functional design choices as you consider making these pieces. Because you have consistently been asked in classes to be able to explain specific characteristics that cause you to “like†a piece, you should now be able to utilize formal design concepts (that you first learned in your 2-D and 3-D design classes) as you explore your development of these forms.

 

 

To arrive at the “final fourâ€, likely you will go through many permutations of form ideas before you settle on a basic successful model. This is an expected and necessary part of the process. The more objects you make the more successful the final outcome will be. The idea is to blend a combination of multiple paper sketches and some initial thrown pieces, with careful ongoing visual assessment to resolve your ideas before fully committing to them. Learn from your explorations. “Perfection†on the first try is not a desired goal here.

 

 

“Clay and wheel, they teach usâ€.

 

 

HAMADA Shoji

 

Japanese Living National Treasure in Folk Pottery

 

 

 

 

These sets of (a minimum of) four matching mugs are to be presented for a formal in-class critique in a leather-hard to bone dry state at the very beginning of class at 8:30 AM sharp on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. These works should be completely finished when shown, with all details fully addressed. Details matter!

 

 

 

Matched Set - Handled Drinking Vessels / Mugs

 

 

 

In looking at some of the things you should be actively addressing as you develop this project, and of course the course grading aspects, the following should help you assess your own direction and performance:

 

 

 

Excellent Performance

 

 

Likely more than 4 mugs are presented, and if there are only four, they are completed in every possible nuance of detail. A very high degree of craftsmanship is clearly evident.

 

 

Forms are confident and skillfully executed. Exceptional control over the materials is evident. Beginnings and endings are skillfully completed.

 

 

The series of presented pieces are very close in all aspects of their visual form, surface treatment, and physical balance.

 

 

A high degree of creativity has been demonstrated, while the functionality of the objects as drinking vessels has been upheld strongly. Solutions to aspects such as lips and feet are skillfully considered and executed.

 

 

The forms exhibit skillful use of considered design concept application.

 

 

Surface treatments are an integral aspect of the overall composition and through their high degree of similarity serve to strongly unify the overall visual presentation.

 

 

The mug holds a reasonable American serving of liquid, the lip shape is very pleasant to drink from, and the body shape causes the liquid to easily flow toward the mouth. It is easy to finish the last bit of the serving of liquid. The balance point of the cup appears to be in the spatial center of the form, and it rotates in space around the handle support easily. The handle provides a firm comfortable grip. It is easy to reach the interior for cleaning. The liner glaze surface is easy to clean and contains no toxic materials. There are no easily broken components.

 

 

You can clearly and skillfully articulate the design choices you made in developing the four pieces, utilizing appropriate formal design language. You speak with confidence and conviction, and when challenged or questioned, you can use alternate explanations to support or explain your points. You relish suggestions for changes or new approaches.

 

 

A large amount of growth in understanding has been accomplished in tackling this assignment.

 

 

 

Adequate Performance

 

 

You have four fully completed mugs to present. Almost all possible minor details are attended to. Craftsmanship is solid.

 

 

Forms are not all that confidently executed, but a clear effort was made in that direction. There is evidence of a reasonable level of control of the clay, slips, and glazes. Beginnings and endings are considered but may be less than fully successful.

 

 

The series of presented pieces are close in most aspects of their visual form, surface treatment, and physical balance. Some subtle variations can be identified upon careful observation.

 

 

Some creative solutions have been demonstrated in the design, and the functionality of the objects as drinking vessels has been reasonably considered and accomplished. Creative solutions to aspects such as lips and feet have been considered and executed.

 

 

The forms exhibit many careful and considered applications of design concepts.

 

 

Surface treatments are clearly a considered aspect of the overall composition and through their basic similarity help to unify the overall visual presentation.

 

 

The mug holds a reasonable American serving of liquid, the lip is adequate to drink from, and the shape does not cause difficulty in drinking the liquid nor finishing the last little bit. It is not very difficult to reach the interior for cleaning. The liner glaze surface is easy to clean and contains no toxic materials. The balance point is not quite in the center of the form. The handle provides a reasonable grip. There are few easily broken/ fragile components, although there might be some limited areas of concern.

 

 

You can articulate a couple of the design choices you made in developing the four pieces, utilizing appropriate formal design language, but the choices of words are not as specific and clear as they could be. You use some formal design language, but it is limited and occasionally might be slightly mis-applied. Very occasionally, your presentation seems a bit unsure. When questioned or challenged, you can lightly defend your position using alternate explanations. You are receptive to suggestions for changes.

 

 

There is evidence of growth in understanding from approaching the assignment.

 

 

 

 

Poor Performance

 

 

You have less than four fully completed mugs to present, or the four pieces are not actually completed and ready to show for the critique. Details are clearly not fully addressed. Work is generally sloppy.

 

 

Forms show ineffective shaping of the clay. Evidence of control over the clay, slips, and glazes is missing. Beginnings and endings are not executed well.

 

 

The series of presented pieces are not very close in many aspects of visual form, surface treatment, and physical balance. Many variations can be easily identified upon even basic observation.

 

 

Little creativity within the bounds of the assignment has been demonstrated, with only very basic solutions evident. The use of the formal elements of visual design are not really demonstrated. The functionality of the objects as drinking vessels has not been considered very well, or the aesthetic aspects of the design significantly compromises the functionality. Little creativity has been applied to aspects such as lips and feet.

 

 

The forms exhibit little considered application of formal design concepts.

 

 

Surface treatments appear to be an “afterthought†to the forming process and were not part of the overall design considerations. Because of their lack of basic similarity they do not help to unify the overall visual presentation.

 

 

The mug is either excessively small or excessively large. The lip is uncomfortable drink from or causes dribbles. The shape of the body causes some difficulty in drinking the liquid or in finishing the last little bit. It is difficult to reach the interior for cleaning. The liner glaze surface is not easy to clean and contains potentially toxic materials. The balance point very much toward the base of the form. The handle does not provide a comfortable grip. There are a number of easily broken/fragile components.

 

 

You do not speak clearly about the design choices you made in developing the four pieces, and do not utilize much if any appropriate formal design language. Your choices of words are not specific and clear. Your verbal presentation seems to lack reasonable forethought and structure and many times design concepts are actually stated incorrectly. When challenged or questioned, you tend to resort to saying something like, “I don’t know why†when trying to explain your choices or defend a thought. You are defensive when possible suggestions for changes are made.

 

 

Little growth in understanding is evident.

teardrop likes this

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This is a bit of a dilemma for me. I just had the best two day Christmas sale I have had in years. I was moving out of that co-operative studio after 26 years though. I just packed up forty mugs for a conference last night. My main gallery just told me that my prices are TOO reasonable. Mugs @ $15.00 If selling out of the studio, I will keep them at $15.00, but bump them up at a gallery. I have been making pots for 36 years, but my main career is teaching art. I only make what I like, don't make any soap dispensers ,butter dishes or chotskas.

I make standard plates, teapots that pour,pie dishes etc.

I lived in Australia two years ago on a teacher exchange. The pottery scene is pretty much over. Went to Bendigo Pottery. No throwers left, just slip casting. Saw some beautiful former potteries,[i was only allowed to visit 2 a day]. They were all but done. One guy was selling bisqueware, one guy was raising cattle. They are too close to China, and have no trade barriers.

I know a few potters in their thirties, but not like the old days.I still think, as Mark C. says, you can still make good pots, at a reasonable price and make a go of it. In two years, I am making full time.Good luck to those starting out. I wish you the best, and hope you can make a go of it.

TJR.

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Okay, I posted some pics in an album. You must keep in mind that I've only been doing this for about 7 years and I make stuff and sell it, I don't have time to take many pictures (I mostly grabbed some stuff from around the house and uploaded it). I throw between five and eight thousand pounds of clay a year.

 

When I started there was a Ken Ferguson quote that, if I may paraphrase, said that a potter should first learn technique; then learn form, then glaze/kiln, then surface. I am following that course and hence my comments. It appears to me, and I must stress appears, that potters like to go strait for the glazes and skip the form. So, if I may elaborate: If the pot don't look good nekked it don't look good no matter what ;)

 

Form and function are the struggles of a functional potter. The other guys make vases and flat bottom bowls. They make attachments that are hard on people with arthritic hands or only fit big or small hands. The unification of form and function is pottery. You can glaze a rock and sell it. But functional pottery that is more than a decoration is hard work and is done by those who love to have people use their pots.

 

I've seen good potters. I personally think that Robin Hopper has it figured out and has mastered a craft that few have. There are things going on in Seagrove that blow my mind they are so good. But 90% of the pottery I've seen really isn't very good. I'm not trying to be mean in any way. I guess what I was really getting at is that it is hard to make a living as a potter when you have people doing the bigger, brighter, wider thing in the stall next to you, selling stuff that folks aren't going to use when they get it home since it will never be comfortable in the hands and doesn't have any long term appeal. I think such 'craftsmen' put pottery in a negative light. Pottery is spoiled by flash, in my humble opinion, it is the earth. To be the earth it must be enduring and deep.

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Okay, I posted some pics in an album. You must keep in mind that I've only been doing this for about 7 years and I make stuff and sell it, I don't have time to take many pictures (I mostly grabbed some stuff from around the house and uploaded it). I throw between five and eight thousand pounds of clay a year.

 

When I started there was a Ken Ferguson quote that, if I may paraphrase, said that a potter should first learn technique; then learn form, then glaze/kiln, then surface. I am following that course and hence my comments. It appears to me, and I must stress appears, that potters like to go strait for the glazes and skip the form. So, if I may elaborate: If the pot don't look good nekked it don't look good no matter what ;)

 

Form and function are the struggles of a functional potter. The other guys make vases and flat bottom bowls. They make attachments that are hard on people with arthritic hands or only fit big or small hands. The unification of form and function is pottery. You can glaze a rock and sell it. But functional pottery that is more than a decoration is hard work and is done by those who love to have people use their pots.

 

I've seen good potters. I personally think that Robin Hopper has it figured out and has mastered a craft that few have. There are things going on in Seagrove that blow my mind they are so good. But 90% of the pottery I've seen really isn't very good. I'm not trying to be mean in any way. I guess what I was really getting at is that it is hard to make a living as a potter when you have people doing the bigger, brighter, wider thing in the stall next to you, selling stuff that folks aren't going to use when they get it home since it will never be comfortable in the hands and doesn't have any long term appeal. I think such 'craftsmen' put pottery in a negative light. Pottery is spoiled by flash, in my humble opinion, it is the earth. To be the earth it must be enduring and deep.

 

 

Nice handles on the mugs, Yedrow.

 

Jim

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Nice handles on the mugs, Yedrow.

 

Thank you :) I will get more pics of functional work up as I may. I tend to only have pics of my 'adventures in clay'. My day to day work gets made, accounted for, and put on the floor, in fairly short order.

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Yedrow,

I agree with Jim that your handles are great! Whats your secret??

For those of you that love a good laugh, there is a great youtube video called "potter at an art fair"

google it

juli

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Juli, Thousands of mugs, lol. I make them the way I was trained, I role up a ball, squeeze it into a carrot, slap it down once on each side to flatten it out and elongate it a little, cut the big end off, then stick it on the mug and pull it out. Negative space is as important to me as anything else on a handle.

 

Thank you for your kind compliment.

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Not to high-jack the tread, but ...

how much of the work out there classified by the makers are really ART?

(I saw the same in the glass beadmaking world - 'I am an artist.' And I think to myself, 'Really?'

 

I slipcast. But please, do not stone me for admitting that. I believe & maintain that I have every right to call my work handmade. These 2 hands sent hours on a potter's wheel creating a plaster master, and then make the molds. I mix and pour my slip myself. I decast & fettle myself. I glaze myself. does it take less time than throwing on the wheel? No, no and no.

 

Ceramics in my country is also going the same route as in the USA. Art seem to be the thing. Sculpting, etc over functionality. and yet, the buyers here prefer spending their money on functional handmade stuff (even though it is sometimes slipcasted :-)

 

 

Diana I am with you. In order to compete and that is what we are talking about is Competing with China.

 

This is what I decided to do:

 

I pay my self $2.00 an hour. I make molds out of my work and slipcase them, which I pick one from my work -one in ten are good, not all get a mold made.

Now, I made 4 cups yesterday took me under an hour, including clean-up. ( I am not very good at throwing, used to be 25 years ago) One is decent enough for a mold to be made.

 

Firing: I take a class for a stupid price and can fire my piece.

 

So what can I charge for the cup? I probably use $.50 - .70 in glaze -if that.

So far I have $2.50 - $2.70 in this cup.

 

Even if I run my own small kiln and fill it up it would be $1.00…. cost about $12.00 to run my little kiln I can fit 8 to 10 cups inside. More expensive than the classes firing I take. I do not do it at home.

 

Now we are at $3.70 in the class, $.4.70 for me to do it.

Now what can I charge and be somewhat competitive to China?

Can I get $5.00 - 6.00 per cup? Am I competing with China? Would more people be willing to pay a dollar more for a cup from an American potter? If I make a sign that says I compete with China, will that help my marketing?

The more I throw the faster I can make my pots. These prices should drop.

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I work with slip casting also, some molds we make and some we buy. We do some nifty glazing, definitely not just dunking. And we sell pretty well. For years at the local Renn Faire we made about 20,000 per season. Now selling at other types of shows, some art fairs, some SF conventions, etc., we don't make as much in any given week, but it adds up over the longer selling season. All of our pieces are functional. The best sellers are mugs, goblets and other drinking vessels. if we were to sell online as well, we would be glad to add 5,000 to the year's income!

Obviously, this is a second income stream, but it would be hard to be without it.

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Interesting discussion. I had a career in TV and came to pottery in my 50s - so can't comment on why young people aren't taking it up - but I can assume that it's because it's very difficult to make a living at it!

Just wanted to chime in here, though, about ETSY and Mea's comment about number crunching. I spend a lot of time on Etsy and in the forums there (I have a shop) and I can tell you that a lot of Etsy potters don't count on Etsy only for their sales. Yes they are social media super stars etc and do well there -- but most also do fairs and festivals and have websites they sell from, as well. So Etsy is just part of their income. But you can bet that the superstars on Etsy are super stars outside Etsy too -- they are a motivated bunch. Very impressive.

But I agree -- the sales volume on Etsy for most is small to moderate. I use it as a lab really, to test ideas and shapes and themes. I can't imagine selling huge volumes there -- for the reasons already discussed -- more time packing and shipping, than making, once the numbers get high!

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I'm thinking that a reason there aren't any potter's coming up in their 20's is because there aren't any iphone apps for pottery ... sad.gif

 

 

oh, but there is! I heard you can actually shape the clay by touching the screen.

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Your post/lesson plan looked very intense, JBaymore.....I am both impressed and scared. LOL.

 

 

I'm sorry I missed this posting from so long ago, Teardrop. My apologies.

 

Yes... this is just a tiny part of the formal educational process at an academic institution that many folks tend to categorically "run down" so glibly with ah very broad brush.

 

There are physicians that graduate at the bottom of their class also (shudder to think of that! ;) ).

 

best,

 

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

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I'm thinking that a reason there aren't any potter's coming up in their 20's is because there aren't any iphone apps for pottery ... sad.gif

 

 

We graduated 14 more twenty-something BFAs just a few months ago. Like this lady working in earthenware: Jill St. Pierre (now Jill Provost... just got married) http://www.google.co...gQ9QEwBw&dur=58

 

 

https://sphotos-b.xx...142201749_n.jpg

 

https://sphotos-b.xx...840931203_n.jpg

 

https://sphotos-b.xx...604761673_n.jpg

 

 

None of her Senior thesis show work is online at the moment... these are from 2011.

 

Some great vessel makers in that crowd. Don't put up the tombstone just yet. ;)

 

 

best,

 

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

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At the NCECA 40th anniversary party for Studio Potter Magazine, the editor, Mary Barringer passed the torch to the next generation. I don'tthink functional porters are going by the wayside.

there are many rising "sta rs" out there. jake Allee, Allegheny Meadows, Lorna Meadron (I love her work and hope I didn't wreck her name) many any more. The Santa Fe Clay dinnerware show is a great place to see these people 'work at NCECA or in the Airstream trailer that Allegheny Zmeadows brings to town.

marcia

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