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#1 Nelly

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 10:34 PM

Dear All,

As I have traveled along a 20 something year career in pottery in classes, retreats, a community studio and now on my own, I find myself that much more particular about my final product.

You see, I just finished trimming a bowl form. In days past, I would have whipped it off put on the foot ring and said good night to the piece. Now, I have this neurotic ritual of tools. The sure form, 2 trimming tools, the metal rib, a stone and now my newest device the red rib for burnishing.

I wouldn't call it compulsive really but when I pick up the bowl and it doesn't feel right in any spot (i.e., extra thickness or a slip in trimming), back it goes on the wheel head and whole process starts again.

It all goes back to when I used to wash my dishes in the sink. When I picked up a bowl and felt a heavy bottom I would be taken aback. I thought, if only I spent a few more moments getting it lighter rather than racing to get it off the wheel.

Yes, it is neurotic but I find with the extra time, I can hold my pieces with more pride. A smooth surface for the work I do and the glazes I use does help.

For me, I have the luxury of this time to put into finding the bowl form in my trimming. I am guessing that once you are highly experienced you do not go through these steps as your first contact with the clay is likely to use the least amount possible to get the same results as I do.

I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.

Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.

Nelly

#2 Natania

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 05:21 AM

I have a similar thing in both the throwing stages and trimming. I don't want to keep a piece if it is too thick anywhere, even though at this stage my extra weight would probably only be noticed by me. I have enough experience now to want only pieces I am proud of out there in the world reflecting on me... However, I sometimes err on the side of having walls that are too thin (usually on forms other than bowls), and this isn't good either. So, lately I've been trying to loosen up a bit and really be ok with pieces being a little heavier if it goes with the aesthetics of the clay (brown with a bit of grog). I'd like the piece to feel as heavy as it looks, so that when you pick it up, it is satisfying and completes your first impression, and not surprising and feeling too light. I still like my porcelain work to be lighter, but when too thin the walls warp, so that keeps me seeking the perfect balance there too.

#3 Sandra Jimison

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 06:33 AM

A couple of years ago I had a potter friend in my house. She picked up one of my bowls and commented "This feels perfect, it makes you want to pick it up." I took this as the ultimate compliment. Though I am not throwing any these days, but doing midsized bust sculptures, I still apply this same desire with each piece. I want it to wow me. I am hoping if I accomplish that others will see the time felt love that was applied.

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#4 clay lover

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 07:04 AM

I don't think you are "picky ", it sound like you are simply a good potter. A bowl is the easiest thing to make but not the easiest thing to make well. I am always curious about people who scorn the making of bowls.

If it's not well balanced and trimmed with care, it's just not a good bowl.
If it's not clean enough to sit on my counter without felt pads, it's not a good bowl.
If the maker did not care as much about the condition of the bottom as they did about the glaze, it's not a good bowl.

These are things I notice immediately about a bowl I pick up. The first thing I do is turn it over to see whether the potter cared enough.


Sounds like you make good bowls.

#5 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 07:09 AM

I think I am getting that way especially at the moment. I need some perfect pieces for a very important show. I am using a metal rib after the clay is too hard for the red rib.

I think today I am going to step back from those pieces and glaze a dinner set to get it out of the studio. I made a special tool for glazing the rims of the plates. I want to see how it works.



Marcia

#6 OffCenter

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 09:11 AM

If it's not well balanced and trimmed with care, it's just not a good bowl.
If it's not clean enough to sit on my counter without felt pads, it's not a good bowl.
If the maker did not care as much about the condition of the bottom as they did about the glaze, it's not a good bowl.


The above may be true for dishmakers but not artists. Too bad we can't ask Voukos, Soldner, what they think of the above "rules". Or, for that matter almost any Japanese master potter. Or for that matter any potter that is not just a dishmaker. BTW, right now I'm a dishmaker because that is what sales at a big show coming up in a week which provides the income I need to get away from dishmaking.

Jim
E pur si muove.

"But it does move," said Galileo under his breath.

#7 GEP

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:15 AM

I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.


Not at all, I am always teaching that trimming should take longer than throwing. There are a lot more details to consider. The weight and balance of a functional pot is critical, and so is the surface finish. I think it's perfectly normal for a potter to feel this way. Not neurotic, and not a curse!

Mea
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#8 Nelly

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:20 AM

I don't think you are "picky ", it sound like you are simply a good potter. A bowl is the easiest thing to make but not the easiest thing to make well. I am always curious about people who scorn the making of bowls.

If it's not well balanced and trimmed with care, it's just not a good bowl.
If it's not clean enough to sit on my counter without felt pads, it's not a good bowl.
If the maker did not care as much about the condition of the bottom as they did about the glaze, it's not a good bowl.

These are things I notice immediately about a bowl I pick up. The first thing I do is turn it over to see whether the potter cared enough.


Sounds like you make good bowls.


Dear Writer,

Now your post me smile from ear to ear. Bowls are one of the things I love, love and love to make. I too turn um over when I am out to look for the short cuts and foot rings when I am out.

Thank you for bringing a smile to my face.

Can't imagine putting felt on the bottom of a bowl??

Nelly

#9 Nelly

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:23 AM


I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.


Not at all, I am always teaching that trimming should take longer than throwing. There are a lot more details to consider. The weight and balance of a functional pot is critical, and so is the surface finish. I think it's perfectly normal for a potter to feel this way. Not neurotic, and not a curse!

Mea


Dear Mea.

Okay, that too is good news. So I can stay focused on the back end of my work. I will still do the interior of the bowl with with as much attention as possible but I can allow myself to really focus on the trimming without guilt.

Thank you,

Nelly

#10 JBaymore

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:39 AM

I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.


Hum........ actually I think that ALL steps of the process deserve intense attention and scrutiny. To really be skilled at this crazy field it is fully balanced. Everything about the work should be considered and an active decision made. "Is the thing I am looking at or touching contributiong to the end success of the piece?" If it is ....keep it.... if it is not.... change it. Throwing is not more important than trimming which his not more important than the firing which is not more important than the glaze and so on.

When that kind of thoughtful and intentful approach is happening....... the work is moving toward what might be called "high touch".

best,

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

PS: To be clear, this in no way excludes "loose" or more casual handling of the materials. The casual handling can be very carefully considered and evaluated as the work progresses and either kept or discarded.
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#11 Nelly

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 08:44 PM

D

I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.


Hum........ actually I think that ALL steps of the process deserve intense attention and scrutiny. To really be skilled at this crazy field it is fully balanced. Everything about the work should be considered and an active decision made. "Is the thing I am looking at or touching contributiong to the end success of the piece?" If it is ....keep it.... if it is not.... change it. Throwing is not more important than trimming which his not more important than the firing which is not more important than the glaze and so on.

When that kind of thoughtful and intentful approach is happening....... the work is moving toward what might be called "high touch".

best,

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

PS: To be clear, this in no way excludes "loose" or more casual handling of the materials. The casual handling can be very carefully considered and evaluated as the work progresses and either kept or discarded.



Dear John,

Thank you for this interesting response. You have made me think. I know I am always thinking but in terms of my personal critique, I am still at the stage of form and structure. For some reason there has to be a physical sense of balance for me to feel good about my work. But in reality or from the responses above everything does work together for a piece to be really good.

I think what I will take from your paragraph is:

"Is the thing I am looking at or touching contributing to the end success of the piece?


It is a type of Gestalt in that it is the sum of the parts. One aspect of a form cannot be considered without say the decoration or the proportions of the piece.

Thank you for this idea.

Nelly

#12 JBaymore

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:59 PM

D


I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.


Hum........ actually I think that ALL steps of the process deserve intense attention and scrutiny. To really be skilled at this crazy field it is fully balanced. Everything about the work should be considered and an active decision made. "Is the thing I am looking at or touching contributiong to the end success of the piece?" If it is ....keep it.... if it is not.... change it. Throwing is not more important than trimming which his not more important than the firing which is not more important than the glaze and so on.

When that kind of thoughtful and intentful approach is happening....... the work is moving toward what might be called "high touch".

best,

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

PS: To be clear, this in no way excludes "loose" or more casual handling of the materials. The casual handling can be very carefully considered and evaluated as the work progresses and either kept or discarded.



Dear John,

Thank you for this interesting response. You have made me think. I know I am always thinking but in terms of my personal critique, I am still at the stage of form and structure. For some reason there has to be a physical sense of balance for me to feel good about my work. But in reality or from the responses above everything does work together for a piece to be really good.

I think what I will take from your paragraph is:

"Is the thing I am looking at or touching contributing to the end success of the piece?


It is a type of Gestalt in that it is the sum of the parts. One aspect of a form cannot be considered without say the decoration or the proportions of the piece.

Thank you for this idea.

Nelly




Glad you found it of use. It is a standard thought that I convey to my students at the college. That is a core focus of many critique sessions. "How does this particular execution decision assist in making this piece work?"

best,

..............john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#13 Chris Campbell

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 10:44 AM

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn ... It takes as long as it takes.

If you make thousands and the joy lies in muscle memory and swift results ... If you make a few a day and love to fiddle and carve and texture til it's right ... If you make one every three months and do not leave any element unperfected ... You do what you do.

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#14 Nancy S.

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 08:19 PM

Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.

Nelly


Not yet, but I'm getting there..... Posted Image

#15 Nelly

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 10:46 PM


Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.

Nelly


Not yet, but I'm getting there..... Posted Image


Dear Nancy,

I think it is just time and pride in your work that gets a person to this almost neurotic state. I love trimming my bowls. It is almost more pleasurable than throwing. Right now, because I am using terra cotta, I want the finish really tight to prevent pin holing. This is additionally my reason for the extra time I am putting into my work. But still, at the end of the day, I want people to pick up my work and say, now that is a nice bowl. I don't want them to feel heavy hips or a bottom foot ring that doesn't match the lip. It is where I am now. But it does take extra time.

Nelly

#16 clay lover

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:41 AM



Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.

Nelly


Not yet, but I'm getting there..... Posted Image


Dear Nancy,

I think it is just time and pride in your work that gets a person to this almost neurotic state. I love trimming my bowls. It is almost more pleasurable than throwing. Right now, because I am using terra cotta, I want the finish really tight to prevent pin holing. This is additionally my reason for the extra time I am putting into my work. But still, at the end of the day, I want people to pick up my work and say, now that is a nice bowl. I don't want them to feel heavy hips or a bottom foot ring that doesn't match the lip. It is where I am now. But it does take extra time.

Nelly


Nelly, I appreciate your attention to detail. I am glad to make you smile. A well made bowl is a beautiful canvas for many different artistic expressions, or it can stand alone as a beautiful form. I make large open bowls with carefull trimmed foot rings and bottom details. The open, upper surface gets complex glazing , the bottom gets just as much care and glazing. My current exploration with this is how to trim the foot ring so that a signature and waxing-glazing of the bottom is just as well done as the upper surface. I want only the surface that it sits on to be unglazed. Anything less for me implies lack of my skill as an artist.

Yes, potters slap felt on the bottom of their things. For me, that smacks of indifference . JMHO, of course.

#17 gypsy

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 10:37 AM

Dear All,

As I have traveled along a 20 something year career in pottery in classes, retreats, a community studio and now on my own, I find myself that much more particular about my final product.

You see, I just finished trimming a bowl form. In days past, I would have whipped it off put on the foot ring and said good night to the piece. Now, I have this neurotic ritual of tools. The sure form, 2 trimming tools, the metal rib, a stone and now my newest device the red rib for burnishing.

I wouldn't call it compulsive really but when I pick up the bowl and it doesn't feel right in any spot (i.e., extra thickness or a slip in trimming), back it goes on the wheel head and whole process starts again.

It all goes back to when I used to wash my dishes in the sink. When I picked up a bowl and felt a heavy bottom I would be taken aback. I thought, if only I spent a few more moments getting it lighter rather than racing to get it off the wheel.

Yes, it is neurotic but I find with the extra time, I can hold my pieces with more pride. A smooth surface for the work I do and the glazes I use does help.

For me, I have the luxury of this time to put into finding the bowl form in my trimming. I am guessing that once you are highly experienced you do not go through these steps as your first contact with the clay is likely to use the least amount possible to get the same results as I do.

I am guessing what I likely should be doing is more on the front end and less on the back end with trimming (i.e., creating the best vessel first) and taking less time with these final steps.

Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.

Nelly

I don't know if its obsessive but I hate to feel a bowl and feel that extra clay that should have been thrown to make it more in perspective...I feel your pain lol.

#18 Rebekah Krieger

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 09:56 AM

Yes- it bothers me to lift things when the weight doesn't match the aesthetic. However I think it's important for us potters to use caution not to strive for things to be comparable to Mass produced items. It's easy to compare to that as most of us have used "made in china" cups most of our lives and that is what we have to compare it to. I like to hold a handmade piece made by a skilled potter and use that as comparison.
I want my items to feel special and handmade. (but not bulky of off balance ha ha ha)
Learning On my Kick wheel with my vintage Paragon (from the late 1960's)

#19 Chris Throws Pots

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 12:31 PM

Hi Nelly,

I share your compulsion for form and I have very much enjoyed reading through this thread.

The responses by Chris Campbell and OffCenter really resonate with me. Chris' sentiment that, "it takes as long as it takes," is the stance I've taken in my own work, as well as in my instruction of other potters. I find this particularly true when trimming and while babying handles and spouts. While I generally strive for forms that follow "the rules," the idea that there is a set-in-stone checklist of qualities for a form to embody in order to be considered proper is not something I subscribe to. OffCenter's comment about making dishes versus making anyhting else speaks to this.

For me what is most important in a piece of pottery, whether functional, decorative or sculptural, whether a traditional shape or not, is that the maker's intention is achieved. The majority of my work is in making dishes. I generally don't sit down at the wheel with an intention to make wonky, aesymetrical forms. If I make a bowl that is unbalanced, off-center, asymmetrical, etc it reads as a mistake. It is rare that I let these pots make it as far as the kiln, but the ones that do just seem "off." For anyone with a basic knowledge of the ceramic process, upon holding a piece like this, they can tell it's not exactly what I was going for.

In line with some of the comments made throughout the thread, I do think a lot of pots are unsuccessful. It's frustrating for me to check out other potters' work at shows, shops, galleries, wherever, and know as soon as I pick a piece up, that the pot does not truly reflect the intention of the maker. The heavy bottom, the wonky lip, the sloppy handle attachment are the usual giveaways, but the real issue is a disconnect between intended aesthetic and achieved results. Some of the pieces which speak most to me are unbalanced, asymmetrical, etc, but upon inspection of these pieces, it becomes clear that the "broken rules" were done so with clear intention.

In an artform where final results all begin simply as balls of mud, the only rule I really subscribe to is to strive for pots with which I feel I've acheived my vision and intention.

So Nelly, keep being compulsive; I will too.

Christopher Vaughn Pottery
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#20 OffCenter

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 12:45 PM


Is there anyone else out there with this slightly neurotic effort for perfection in the overall weight of the form and shape.


Not me, I like HEAVY, things that are light weight especially for their size and expected materials feel "cheap" to me. A large very thin walled hollow bronze sculpture that is light feels very cheap to me, like plastic, so everything I've ever made is always substantial and heavy, maybe it's a man thing who knows!


More likely than being a "man thing" it is that most posters to this thread are thinking pots and you're thinking sculpture.

Jim
E pur si muove.

"But it does move," said Galileo under his breath.




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