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Earth&Ware

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  1. For most of human history, an artist was a person who made things according to his training. The artist's teacher didn't expect his apprentice to invent some new version of a jug or a chair or a painted angel, and the "customer" didn't expect the artist to make something no one had ever seen before, embodying ideas that no one had ever thought before. Everyone knew their role in the process and knew the standards by which things are judged because those standards were in the world, not in the artist. Around the time we call the Enlightenment, the artist was redefined as an inspired genius who had original ideas and insights inside of him, and from whom flowed a river of exciting innovations. That's our model today. College students are told that there's a unique artistic essence INSIDE of them, and their job is to manifest it in their work. And so they struggle, trying to think up unique ideas and invent new forms that reveal this unique artistic essence. But most of us aren't innovative geniuses. We're just regular people looking for a way to become good at our craft. If we don't have a Master to teach us, the next-best thing is to adopt a tradition we like, and to work within that tradition. The "creativity" will emerge naturally as you make things, in the same way your unique handwriting style emerged as you wrote more. To oversimplify what I'm saying, "Be a craftsman," don't be an artist." Good craft endures. Today's exciting art is tomorrow's eyesore -- unless you're a genius.
  2. You don't develop your own aesthetic; you develop your own STYLE based on refining traditional models. The word, "style" comes from the Latin, "stylus," the instrument used for writing. It refers to handwriting. Each of us writes the same letters, yet each of us writes them differently -- that's our style. Having your own aesthetic would be like having your own alphabet -- no one could understand you. How did we get our unique style of writing? We didn't get it by experimenting. We were shown a model, and we tried to imitate it. At first, our efforts were awkward, but as we practiced, we wrote better and, (because we're all physically and mentally different), our writing came out slightly different than the model. Maybe we deliberately exaggerated some of the differences, but mostly the changes were unselfconscious. I think it's the same with any art: You have a model in mind of how things SHOULD be done, and you try to match it. Differences will naturally creep in. You evaluate them and decide if they're useful or not, and if you want to encourage them or not. Eventually your work looks different than another person working in the same tradition. IMHO, a potter should choose a tradition -- Indian pottery, Japanese pottery, Stafforshire, Ancient Greek, Italian Majolica or whatever, and try to work in that tradition (I didn't say "imitate" it), before trying to reinvent the wheel, because those reinventions never come out round. (In the interest of accuracy, I wrote the lines you quoted in the OP)
  3. We ought to distinguish between opinions and standards. Opinions vary, but we agree on standards before we critique. For instance, "Is the item well-made?" is a standard. We're asking, "Is it thrown well, glazed well, does the lid fit; does the spout pour; will the handle work, etc?" We're comparing your item to things we KNOW are well-made. Differences of opinion will probably be slight. Function is a standard. Does it do what it's meant to do? Again, we're comparing your item to things we KNOW work well, so there will probably be few disagreements. Then we might approach aesthetics by asking about proportions. Do the parts harmonize with each other compared to CLASSIC models or are some parts exaggerated or diminished? Again, there are well-known standards concerning proportions. If you've deviated from classic ideas of proportion, was it an experiment or unintended? If an experiment, was it successful or not? There are more standards but we start with agreed-on classic standards and deviate from them as needed, based on the INTENTIONS of the potter, not arbitrary unpredictable things like "I put some clay on the wheel and this is what happened," or "I like it" or "don't like it."
  4. Yep. A bad handle can ruin an otherwise good cup.The biggest problems I see, (sometimes on my own cups) are: 1. Big loopy handles, too large for the cup, 2. Handles that rise above the rim of the cup 3. "Strap" handles, the same size from top to bottom
  5. If you want to persuade your restaurant to try some handmade things, you might suggest bud vases, or containers for sugar packets, or such. Breakage and stacking wouldn't be as much of an issue as with plates.
  6. In the Personal Journal section of the Oct. 1 WSJ is a lengthy article titled "Forget the Food: Trendy-Restaurant Diners Want the Plates." This site won't allow me to cut-and-paste the article, but the gist is that restaurateurs are replacing white porcelain dishes with more rustic-looking ware. Chefs say that farm fare "pops" when served on handmade, glazed ceramics in earth colors. Designs are updated too, with shallower bowls and sloped plates. Many customers are trying to purchase the plates directly from the restaurant, or are tracking down artisans who cater mainly to restaurants.
  7. Thanks for many good suggestions, both pro and con.
  8. When I took a ceramics course in college, we sat pots in a shallow tray of hot wax before glazing. I recall that it worked well. But trying it recently, I had problems with wax not adhering, dripping, etc. Do you use hot wax, and if so, how? What temperature? Do you add anything to the wax to make it more liquid?
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