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Why Is Our Work Better Than Imported Work?


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#61 Mark C.

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 11:12 PM

With pots you always get better over time. The 1st 10 years I thought I'm ok but looking back after over 40 years those where not good or very ok.

Yes you could sell them and I did but still compared to my present day work -not up to speed. I think I will be able to say that about work now in say 20 more years-Its always getting better and thats the way with ceramics.

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#62 Patsu

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 07:44 AM

Agreed Mark.  What you are honestly expressing, is that we have all been in the same boat at one time or other, some of us simply having had more time to bail... As for me, I'm in water up to the gunwale & still firing.  I'll get to bailing eventually.

 

And better is determined by one's personal aesthetic, not necessarily by whether the potter has officially bought their way into some inner circle and grown from there.

 

I know of many garage mechanics who are professionals, having done what they do for 20 - 30 years.  From experience I know as well, that a few of these guys, are somehow, still not very good mechanics  :rolleyes:

 

And then there is the business aspect, and the personality aspect.  If a potter beats his wife & kids, is he a good potter?  By 1950's standards, of course he would be.  By 2014 standards, - not so much.  All of these things being a part of the human potter.

 

I have a quote - from a book that I slept with last night, The Craft And Art Of Clay by Susan Peterson.  Last thing I read, made me feel okay.  Lucy Rie - "I work in a completely unorthodox manner, no longer using any form of scientific method."  I haven't learned enough about her, but it seems her journey went from experienced to ditching the science, and just doing whatever moved her, based on this quote from a caption.  She also was a friend of Schroedinger which is cool.

 

Our pottery is better, because we are meat popsicles and not machines.  Perhaps when I can make pots that rival a machine cast pot, I will somehow value that over the current humanity in my pots.  I fear though, that I will at that point have arrived at the losing, of my direction.


"In everything, never do as others do." - some ancient mystic's grandmother


#63 Babs

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 08:04 PM

Re Lucie Rie, :) , She knew it then she tossed it aside, knowing it, I think she tossed it to another part of her massive brain, but still had awareness of it.

Have a great image of lucie from a documentary where in her ninties i Think, she is unloading her top loading kiln. The person interviewing her can be seen struggling with himself as he resists placing a hand on her body as her feet leave the floor of the kiln each time she dips head first in to retrieve another treaure! :D

Is our work better than imports? Sometimes. 



#64 JBaymore

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 09:06 PM

Hamada Shoji (the great "folk" potter).......... had what amounted to a ceramic engineering degree before he became a potter.

 

I have used his approach as  an inspiration for my approach.  Master the technical... so you can step back and work intuuitively.

 

best,

 

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


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#65 Tyler Miller

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 10:05 PM

Yep, doing pottery without technical knowledge is like writing poetry without speaking the language fluently. ;).



#66 Patsu

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 08:21 AM

Yep, doing pottery without technical knowledge is like writing poetry without speaking the language fluently. ;)

 

Your statement may awe-strike high schoolers , but is flawed logically as it presumes that any individual work in ceramics necessarily pulls from all areas of ceramics technical knowledge, which is not the case.  False Analogy.  Allow me to explain.

 

A thorough understanding of technical knowledge, relative to the chemistry and mechanics of one's actual process and pieces in one's chosen subset of ceramics, is pretty important; this, is true.  

 

Few here would doubt that in the first place however so it becomes moot.  They may doubt me and that is fine, but they do not doubt that.

 

If one does not do or intend to make Raku, for instance, explain to me why the absence of thorough technical knowledge and experience in Raku process, debases the quality of their functional non-Raku cups? How does it insert flaw into or disqualify their completely unrelated process? It simply does not!  

 

Speaking for myself, some areas of the ceramics realm, are just not applicable to my working area of competency and practice, and I have not studied them with a mind to making in that area. I am not however entirely ignorant of them, having read many books on the subject of ceramics, having seen lots of ceramics.

 

Why is it necessary for a production tilemaker to know how to throw to perfection on the wheel?  Please explain.

 

Why would a potter skilled in pulling handles, have his mug work disqualified because he hasn't used an extruder.  If one practices wedging clay with competency and it suits their process, then they do not need to know how to disassemble a pugmill.  They might be interested, but it is not necessary to their process.  Many skilled potters have never used their own found clay, personally dug formulations.  This does not disqualify their work in Laguna B mix.  

 

All of these things are a part of the broad scope or 'language' of ceramics, yet they do not have to apply to all of us in order to ensure that our work in our chosen part of the realm, is good. The probability that there is something out there, in the ceramics realm, that each one of us does not know, is very high. 

 

Then there is the concept of the 'reference book collection.'  I know a few good potters doing lovely work, who can't hold complex chemical detail in their head, jumble numbers in conversation and freely admit that they are not know-it-alls, but they have solid reference material at hand, so necessary technical knowledge, is still immediately available to them if and when they need it.  I have a few dozen reference works myself, some recommended by masters.  They don't tell the entire story but many technical aspects are covered in repetition.  Including Raku, and though I've read much on it, I do not work in it, just not my bag, baby. Nothing wrong with that, I don't make space shuttle tiles either.  All a part of the realm of ceramics.

 

If approached responsibly, it is not difficult or particularly time-consuming to get a grip on the skirt of the medium that interests you, accrue sufficient technical knowledge in it, and from that point forward it is just a matter of working toward the purity of your personal goal.  You have to do it until you are confident that it is a successful working cycle of a process.  When you discover a blind spot you say oops, forgive yourself & then permanently fill it in. 

 

Gotcha statements can be entertaining and sparring over issues can be a healthy exercise.  It is more important to do what you know, to know what you do, and to hold yourself accountable for what you make.  Others' presumptions, aren't all that relevant unless they are actively working against you, and even then, there will always be people like that.  

 

It has been said that the more that you know, the more you know that you do not know.  That tends to make people insecure.  Work your area of core competency well and it becomes its' own best defense.


"In everything, never do as others do." - some ancient mystic's grandmother


#67 Pres

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 08:56 AM

Yep, doing pottery without technical knowledge is like writing poetry without speaking the language fluently. ;).

My take on this is pretty simple. If I can understand how the underlying principles of clay or glazes works, then I have a starting point to fix errors I have made that show up in my ware. If I am getting cracks, I try to understand why, get help from some of the numerous books I have, and here on line. If my glaze is coming out too dry or glossy, analyze why? If my greens are not green, but brown is it the opacifier I am using or some other element of the glaze? All of these things become easier with the more knowledge I amass. I have taken courses, but do not have near the knowledge of many here like John. My small amount of understanding comes from reading, reading, reading, and lots of trial and error. I am finally at the point where I can self assess and make changes, but the short cut would have been to have had classes in more of the chemistry and physics of clay. I even wish that I had had some history/appreciation courses that were more on Ceramics also. My biggest exposure to that was the Nelson book we used for a text back in the 70's. I am terrible with names, so over the years I have seen and admired a great number of pots, but to remember the name of so many of the artists. . . . I can't.

 

So I heartily support John in his Inspiration of Hamada, and Tyler in his simile about poetry. Patsu, the only thing I have to say to you at this juncture is that the Peterson book is excellent and a great resource. I have read it through several times. You might take some interest in the creative aspects of scientific knowledge by reading the page on Otto Heino.


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/


#68 Patsu

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:25 AM

Though perhaps not so ignorant as some presume, I accept a place below on the ladder as far from you Pres as you might see yourself to be from John.  Cool that Otto Heino was involved in the League of NH Craftsmen as I may be as well, some day. As I receive more negativity here toward approach and work than positive reinforcement, it makes sense to step away from this forum and let the more experienced continue to inform the community as they do so very well.  Perhaps I am wrong in the end. Perhaps my process in ceramics is not valid despite the end result being safe ware that others want to own.  After all, I have not received university degree or equivalent, and others presume that I have not a scientific mind.  My questions, such as the question re:  Neph S, are not answered anyhow. My work is not important in the grand scheme of ceramics, but it is safe. When I realized this, I saw no further reason to make them wait. Perhaps I was wrong.  Thank you for your thoughts.


"In everything, never do as others do." - some ancient mystic's grandmother


#69 Benzine

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:54 AM

I work, much like you Pres.  I started with the base understanding, of ceramics and clay, that I learned in college, and have built upon that.  When something doesn't work, I find out why it didn't, and how to avoid the problem in the future.  

 

I wouldn't say, that understanding the technical, is a prerequisite to working with clay.  There are cultures around the world, that have been creating ceramics for eons, with no prior technical knowledge.  However, the initial creators, had to deal with a lot of trial and error, to gain the experience necessary.  After that, the skills and techniques have been handed down.  And while they might now understand the true technical side of it, they still know what to do, and not to do, from generations of experience.  

So a technical understanding, isn't necessary, but it will definitely save you some time, materials and headaches.

 

This is why, I explain and demo the characteristics of each stage of clay, to my students.  Then they have a base understanding, of why the clay behaves the way it does, in each state.  This leads to less issues later, and less students trying to connect pieces of bone dry clay together...


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#70 Pres

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 10:08 AM

Patsu, nothing negative here. However, your even though your search for creating commendable glazes is commendable, and when used in the strictest of parameters the "safe" commercial glazes are such, you should realize that one cone difference in firing, changes in application and other variables will render many of them unsafe. At the same time, we should all realize that commercial materials are not necessarily safe by future standards. Case in point, Enamels that my school purchased as safe in the early 70's were considered unsafe by 1980. Turned out that the manufacturers were using uranium and other radioactive materials for certain colors. When we walked through the room with a Geiger counter we found all sorts of things we had to dispose of. We have no idea what future knowledge will bring us in the understanding of much of what we use. All we can do, as you are, is the best we can with the knowledge and understanding we have


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#71 Benzine

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 10:13 AM

Pres,

 

Did the Geiger counter lead them to your in use coffee mug by any chance?


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#72 Stephen

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 10:28 AM

I get that a well rounded technical knowledge of all things pottery is helpful in understanding and correcting errors but I think it is a lot more than that in the long run.

 

Understanding the Raku process as well as the many other possible processes and approaches, regardless of whether you employ them provides competence of craft. It opens up choices and options at each point in the process. The more knowledge, the more techniques mastered, the broader the approach can be to getting where one wants as an artisan (or artist if that's your thing).

 

Doing a piece a certain way because you think that will bring out the best in a piece is a lot different than doing the piece the only way you know how.

 

I think that holds true even if the latter turns out to be a wonderful piece.  



#73 Patsu

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:15 AM

All of that's true.  I don't mean to hijack the thread.  I suppose this search for synching is part of what makes our work better; the dialogue, forcing me to look at my way of thinking, though I am more advanced than some take for granted and my way of thinking is rather tight and focused on the technical detail of my work.  If I couldn't be wrong, then my pottery couldn't evolve to be right. 

 

Pres thanks;  I knew these things of which you speak, before my leaving a job to study ceramics work independently full-time for the past 18 months. This is most basic stuff, these come up countless times, with every firing in fact these and many other issues are always key both in result and off-result.  I thought that I had made the implication, that I know what I am doing.  I did only figurative work for some time.  I have 87 firings accrued this year alone, personally in my private studio doing all of the work with total control and believe it or not, I have learned something about my process in having developed it.  I use cones and a programmable kiln controller with custom ramp schedules proven by cones on every shelf. I correct issues.  I spend a lot of time on design. I use only 3 clays for functional stuff. I know the clays that I am working with. I could confidently write a long passage that goes into great depth on practice and process, in pen & ink, in a closed room, as well as things that I expect some folks here have never heard of or thought of. In fact I plan to do so in front of a jury soon, but I won't study, I don't really have to. I might get some figures wrong. But see, in this audience?  It's doomed, pre-doomed.  I can pick apart anything and so can any competent person here.  It is a matter of motivation. And presumption. As if that is a high road to anything. 

 

Try to understand how amazingly annoying it is to be considered a neophyte unaware of even the fundamental basics when you are as dialed in and immersed in what you are doing, as I am to what I am.  I am not sure why it is presumed otherwise.    Anybody ever hear of a compliment sandwich, at least?  It's like generic presumption and harshness up in here. I know when I've lost, but see, it is only a subjective matter of semantics in this case, and my information is not being reviewed.  So, I am not being understood.

 

It is fine if you do not comprehend my point or perspective, or work.  

 

Thanks Benzine, I think that I do well in your class, at least.  At least you don't come down on me like a blunt object.  You might like some of my work, might think that it shows promise.

 

Don't worry about it.  Just make good works, take responsibility for your creations, make it right for your customers.  Forgive my being a sensitive person; it is fine. We are all good people, with some motivations more helpful than others. 

 

I sell pots mostly because it is the most efficient way that I can think of to get my work into as many human hands and places as is possible in the time I have.  When you look at it that way the concept of making poisonous pots is not all that appealing.  Perhaps others look at it this way as well;  I wouldn't presume.   I know of these other areas.  I just don't care.  If I catch something relevant, do you not think that I would instantly assimilate it?  Sure one aspect can always inform another aspect.  It is no revelation.


"In everything, never do as others do." - some ancient mystic's grandmother


#74 Stephen

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:43 AM

wow Patsu, I hope you didn't think I was saying all of that. I was just responding to your challenge to explain why a potter should master pottery processes they don't use. I was just offering up why I think its important.

 

If I offended you I am certainly sorry, that was not my intent in the least.



#75 Benzine

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:43 AM

Patsu, I don't think anyone here, meant to criticize you or your work.

 

Everyone here, is just expressing their beliefs, in general about ceramics and its role in the world today.  

 

Both John and Tyler appreciate the technical aspect of the ceramic world.  They are also very knowledgeable, which is awesome, as they help a lot of others, with that knowledge.  If something is dangerous, or ill-advised, in regards to ceramics, people here, will point it out.  It's not that they are trying to act superior, it's because they want other people to be safe and responsible.  John especially, is a life long teacher, and as he has many times stated, a life long learner as well.  We all have the same goal, to get better at our craft....or is it art.... hehe...


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#76 Patsu

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:53 AM

Stephen you've always been very decent, in no way have you offended, I don't think you ever would either, I agree with your post.  Sorry I hadn't given you confidence to know that you needn't interpret that in that way, it wasn't directed to your comment specifically, it was directed to more extreme analogy that seemed in conversation to be somewhat overly candid toward my perspective, which I take very seriously indeed.  My bad.  Yeah you're right Benzine. And they're very important guys to the realm of ceramics;  In that regard, i certainly stand corrected.  Thank you for guiding me to the clarification.  Apologies for not having made my respect more clear. 


"In everything, never do as others do." - some ancient mystic's grandmother


#77 Bob Coyle

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 02:52 PM

I think this discussion points out very clearly why our work is better than imported work. The discussion mentioned food safe glazes. I'm not sure that the people who sell the cheap imports from China have any idea whether the glazes used are food safe or not. The discussion also touched on ethical considerations, improving knowledge and  technical skill, and also aesthetics. I don't think that these are the primary concerns of the market driven, import industry. As such, there is no desire to change anything, as long as a line is maintaining sales, and what changes that might be made will be pretty well within a range that will sell.

 

The people in this forum differ greatly in knowledge, skill level, and technique. It is pretty obvious that our work is important to us. We all seem to have in common is a desire that our pieces be worthwhile and reflect our creativity. We strive to get better and try to come closer to producing that piece that exists only in our minds eye. To me, that makes all the difference in the world.



#78 Min

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 03:36 PM

The direction this thread has taken is one which I’ve seen happen a few times in the past couple years. Someone with great passion for working in clay takes umbrage with a reply or critique of what they have said. Emotions get involved, things get taken personally and the conversation goes downhill from there.

 

I think that what is so very important to remember is that we are all just expressing our opinions, nothing is written in stone. Some of us have more life experience than others, be it with marketing, chemistry, design or so forth. The crux of the matter is to endure in this field you need to eat, sleep and breathe clay; it is such a ruthless career to be in that it’s very hard to succeed unless you feel that way. It is because we are so involved with clay that our comments are perhaps at times so abrupt.

 

Patsu, you are obviously very passionate about clay. With all due respect, so are all the people who have replied to your posts.  They are only trying to broaden your perspective as you are with them. Some of us are a titch more gruff than others but everyone’s heart is in the right place.

 

There are many, many wonderful sharing people on these forums,  I urge you to stick with it, there is no such thing as wasted knowledge and there is plenty to learn here. 






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