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Pres

QotW: How does your process involve object design?

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Gabby recently asked in the QotW pool: How does your process involve object design before the fact, whether planning a new design simply for the novelty of it or creating innovative designs that provide solutions to practical issues or uncommonly met needs?

If I am understanding the question correctly, Gabby is asking how as potters we design, modify or redesign objects for decoration or use. As a mostly functional potter, the design of a functional form is something that is foremost in my mind. I am always looking at something like a batter bowl, or a honey jar with the thought of improving the design for either something more aesthetically or functionally pleasing. Many of my ideas come from careful observation, sketches, and actual improvisation while working.

I have often liked the functionality of batter bowl, but always wondered about handles. . .to have them or not, whether vertical or horizontal, and how to integrate them pleasingly into the form and still have the form stack-able. Over the years I have created several different versions, used them and discarded the idea for one reason or another until I got to my latest design a few years ago using a flared rim that rolled opposite the spout into the outer form, with a strap handle.  From the top the form is heart shaped, and it stacks well, and is functional with the handle on top. Pics on my blog site.

Honey jars are something else that I thought could be improved. First off, the hole for the swizzle stick was an opening for bugs. . . what bug does not like honey! At the same time, we were always losing the stick. So I started creating forms attached under the lid to fit into the honey. The first of these were like handle forms with an inverted edge as a cup. Didn't hold much honey. Of late I have been doing them with a hollow knob with a notch cut out for a spoon with a drizzle hole in the back. Pics in older posts and on blog site

I believe that most functional potters tend to think of functionality, and want to improve their forms for either function or aesthetics. Sometimes it is just a matter of standing out against a crowd, but mostly about progressive improvement.

 

best,

Pres

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I tend to work thru a new item by making some 1st and using them. Next batch I improve them and so on-usually I get to what I think is the best  in term of functionality and weight and form and function by the 3rd go round.Then I make many hundreds in my line. I can change the form over time like my tumblers which used to flare at the lip more 10 years ago now they are almost straight -just a little for your lip.

I have added a few forms over the years if I'm asked a hundred  times about it. Thats how I came back to making french butterdishes (butterballs for some)

I was doing southwest desert shows and got asked for a decade about them before caving and offering them.I did make them in the 90os but they had yet to catch on then so I stopped .

I tend to standardize forms with the same metric measurements so lids will always fit bottoms if I need more-I have done this since the early 80s before that every lid was a different size to fit that particular bottom.I was green  out of school and it was learned skill that made life easier but requires some discipline .

I also from the start weighed all clay to have standard forms-I can do this without a scaling all the pieces but cutting the pug in so many pieces. It saves lots of time as well.

The trick is cutting one handle off your cut off wire and you can drag it thru the pug on end and pull the wire out at bottom of cut.Its the little tricks really that save energy and time. also no need to make clay balls the wheel will round them out in a second unless the clay is over about 6#s then a ball shape will aide you.

In terms of exact forms like Pres. said above -on a batter bowl or what I call a whip bowl. I make mine with extra thick beefy handle and a pour spout and sell them with wire whips included. I have yet to break a  handle on one.

I make a handled whip pitcher with sprout that has a small handle on side that holds the  small whip-cute as a bug but its my least favorite form due to the fragile side handle. I was recruited to make them buy a gallery in Mendocino and they sold very well for 18 years until the closed two years ago. I have about 50 more whips and when they run out I'm done making them as I know folks break off the side handles.

I tend to like strong forms that last. I make thousands of sponge holders and they are a bit fragile but I know they work very well(we use two ourselves )

I do not like them to thick even though they would last longer and hold up to falls better.Its form weight function trade off.My sponge bottom keeps then from moving on counters.

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My process started with and continues with research. You would have to accept clay formulation as an art, to understand my passion for it. I see the chemical manipulation of a clay body ranking up there with the most expressive thrown or molded form. I have been working on a plasticity calculator for awhile now; having sent out test bodies for review. I have been testing bodies that specifically react to salt and wood firings. Then again, I also believe that clay is as much relative to the design and function of a piece; as any forming technique or glaze. My process most would find boring and mundane, but the results are gratifying. Galleries and museums would be empty if someone did not take the time to formulate the paint.

T

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Mark, very good advice there from one who has been in the trenches so long. I believe like you say that you have to use pieces yourself to find how they work and how to improve them. Great thoughts!

Tom, your passion for clay is not my cup of tea, but I am sure many like me will learn from your depth of understanding of the clay beast. Keep on posting as even though I often do not understand all, I do glean a few tidbits for future use. I liken your passion for clay like some I have seen firing that can tell the temp of a kiln with in a few degrees just by the color of the heat, not that that means much for heat work, but it does help.

 

best,

Pres

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I find that I am more successful with working through a new shape if I sketch everything out.  After I have sketched it for few iterations, then I start the process that Mark talked about.  Just making a few and seeing what I like and what I don't.  Putting the piece in my cupboard and seeing how it functions.  Then I might sketch again, but definitely make again until I get it the way I want.  

I have to say, I like the sketching process.  It is not anything I ever thought I would enjoy!

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Like Roberta I would sketch everything out on a new design and this helped me work through potential problems.   I have been coiling the last few years and have been just going with the flow with them.  I thing coiled work has a mind of it's own,   I sketch designs on them in the bisque stage for my intricate glaze and stains patterns.   Denice

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I do a mix of drawing and then "sketching" with clay.  I usually have something in mind but will play with the design in clay until I'm happy with it.  Once I have a form I like, I will make more and save a finished piece as a reminder when I go to make more.

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I draw on the Kraft paper that covers some of my work surfaces, and sometimes make sketches in a small drawing pad. Mostly I think & visualize. I take photos of some processes & all finished pieces. I don't like ceramic note-taking so I use the Pottery Logbook smart phone app. Most of what I make is not meant to be particularly  congruent with repetition, standardization, nor for retail purposes, and I'm a low volume producer in any event. I used to sketch everything, do all the math etc. made sure that things fit that needed to fit, and worked as intended (i.e. spouts, fittings for bird bath etc.)--just don't, these days.  

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