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"Functional" pottery - but what function?


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I came across this "liquor set" tagged as functional pottery some time ago.  The thing is, I can't see the "function" in that phrase as applied to this.  I've attached pictures - apparently I can't place them inline.

Aside from the "intentional lumpy pot" aesthetic (and I DON'T mean the rough earthenware stand) ...

These don't appear very "functional" to me for any realistic or useful purpose.  The tiny teapot seems to indicate sake use, but there is no space in the base upon which it rests for a warming light.  Three cups are redolent of "tasting sets" (which I also don't get) - but one teapot/dispenser is not.  The dispenser doesn't appear large enough to hold but one serving for each cup, of course that may depend on the serving size.  And I have NEVER encountered a cup of that shape - tiny little jars with narrow mouths and big bellies, essentially - that was anything other than a royal pain to drink from.

Clearly this isn't functional at all for someone like me, but who is it functional FOR and what is its INTENDED function?

Intentionally lumpy pot 01.jpg

Intentionally lumpy pot 02.jpg

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Well Pintos actually WERE more or less sort of functional.  At least until they burst into flames.  At least they weren't as bad as Gremlins - who remembers those any more LOL!?

There was a lot of talk in the text that accompanied that article about how he was juxtaposing this'n'that, enough of it that I really had the impression that "function" wasn't seriously considered (the only mention "function" got was a single sentence about making the spout not drip - of course no description of how to achieve that function).

One thing that he did to it that makes it considerably LESS functional to my mind was the arching of the top shelf over the cups.  He thought it was somehow more aesthetic.  While an arch IS visually pleasing in this context ... not so much when it requires fixing it so the top shelf is NOT FUNCTIONAL because it is curved.  The thing was slab built.  There are other ways to achieve that.

I mean, not to grouse TOO much, but I don't expect to see these kinds of issues with pottery that is ACTUALLY functional, as opposed to only theoretically so.

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I have a hard time imagining a mug handle so artsy-fartsy that it has rendered the mug not only not all that functional for its intended purpose, but also obscures what the purpose actually IS, LOL!

But yeah.  It does seem to be more form over function, that is exactly how I feel looking at it, and I'm afraid running across it again only heightened my sense of dudgeon over it being labeled "functional pottery" LOL!  I mean it really does appear to be more for display than use, and there's certainly a place for that, but then you shouldn't label it the one when it is better suited to the other.

If anybody ever does figure out what its intended function was supposed to be, I'd still like to know.

Currently I'm going back to trying to figure out how to make a sake warmer.  With or without electrical bits.

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If it is that upsetting to you don't look at it or even think about it.

Different strokes for different folks...If you have not had the pieces in your hand then you really don't know its functionality.

Looking forward to seeing your sake warmer.

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Wow, I actually did not say I was "upset".  I'm just trying to figure out what it is FOR.  Apparently its not FOR anything.  That is my only issue.  Aesthetics are not the issue (in fact if it HAD been presented to me as a decorative piece I'd never have thought about it again), it is how it managed to be classified as "functional pottery".  Got any idea about that?  If you have to "hold something in your hand" to know what its for, it seems to me its not "for" anything very germaine.

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Functionality of anything, and especially ceramic art/pottery items, is determined by the user, not the maker; regardless of the maker's intent!  

A large ceramic vessel designed and manufactured to separate butter from fresh milk is functioning as an umbrella stand.  A heavy cylinder of fired clay (closed on one end)  is functioning as a paper weight one day; a pencil holder the next day, and recently was functioning the amount of epk going into a batch of glaze, and the when the rain stops will be functioning by holding a window partially open! meanwhile its function is to hold down the table on which it sits so that the table does not float to the roof of the building.   

I know of a large collection of ceramics items that functions only to fill the space in the corner of a brick building awaiting an opportunity to function in a different way. 

Yes the use of the word "functional" for ceramic items is ambiguous, but 

As "The Eagles" says in the opening track of "Hell Freezes Over": "get over it!"

LT

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I totally disagree with the idea that function is determined by the user.  Sure you can improperly or even imaginatively repurpose just about anything.  What I STILL want to know is what the INTENTION of calling that "functional pottery" actually was.  I just can't see the INTENDED purpose and apparently I am not alone in that given that no one has come up with any ideas LOL!

I have no idea who that guy is, but if you recognize his work I'm pretty sure he doesn't give a rat's about my opinion (which isn't even an opinion per se, I just wanted to know what you would ever actually USE it for).  I'm getting to this so late in life that even if I DID have an articulable "artistic vision" I am unlikely to ever develop the necessary skills to bring it to reality in any cogent sort of way.  Again, its not about the aesthetic - its not my aesthetic but I don't find it hateful.  

I just can't imagine finding it actually useful in any meaningful way, and wondered if anybody else around here could.  Apparently not LOL!  So I am definitely not alone in wondering what it was for.

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Stating that a given item is functional can be accurate, as far as it goes. There is nothing that specifies whether it’s supposed to function well or poorly. There’s a wide range of possible efficacy, there.

I’m on side with the Douglas Adams explanation.

PS, the artist’s name is Mike Jabbur. 

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Function and Form are certainly variables that the maker uses to express their aesthetic. Some of us create functional ware with the intent on giving joy in use to the user. Often these functional pieces are stale or dull in their execution and identified as such by those that write about or critique ceramics. Potters wishing to step outside of the aforementioned status will often experiment to the extreme of form thus jeopardizing function. I believe that such is the case of the tea set you have pedestaled.  Some might even argue that it has accomplished its function by the responses it has received in this strand. :lol:

 

best, 

Pres

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Its functin could metely be to fraw attention to how pernickity humans have become in their various ritualising of having a bl.......cup of tea!!

A receptacle which  holds liquid, can be drunk out of ra de ra....

Just perhaps he is pointing out the absurdity of our needs.

Certainly ...

My god, is it art??? Is it craft?...

 

:-))))))

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On 7/8/2021 at 11:05 AM, Pyewackette said:

The dispenser doesn't appear large enough to hold but one serving for each cup, of course that may depend on the serving size.  And I have NEVER encountered a cup of that shape - tiny little jars with narrow mouths and big bellies, essentially - that was anything other than a royal pain to drink from.

Clearly this isn't functional at all for someone like me, but who is it functional FOR and what is its INTENDED function?

I see it as a language issue really,
The word functional is a bit dysfunctional actually, functional can be barely so or high end best of the best and still be functional. In pottery it’s often used to differentiate whether something is suitable for food service or merely aesthetic and not intended for everyday food service. 

I often feel the criticism  behind the use of the word functional is similar to the argument that one can never define what the word “is” means or rather I can never be told what something is. In contract terms,  functional and “is” would likely be too broad, but in everyday use it basically fulfills a reasonable descriptive need within language.

The maker likely intended for it to dispense and hold liquids and be artistic.  As potters we would expect the materials used to make it are suitable for those liquids and likewise human consumption of same. How well it does that is a qualitative argument whether it functions well or not.

The premise of that argument though ………… is that it does function for the intended use, maybe just poorly.

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Whether or not something is functional and how well it functions are two different arguments.

As for the piece(s) above, if the cups had not been displayed as part of a set with a teapot, I never would have identified them as cups. I really do like them as ceramic objects, though, and I like the teapot as well. I think the red clay display case presents them as a single piece of art, not necessarily meant to be taken out and used for tea, and as a single piece I think it's successful. Functionality is not an issue. Without the red clay case, the lack of functionality would be an issue, though, because that presentation would imply that they were meant for use. One could argue that they aren't meant for use in either presentation, however IMO for a form to be considered non-functional, it must be pushed far enough that its lack of functionality is clear, and these pieces don't go that far. Instead, they would come off as poorly functional. It's also possible that the 'cups' aren't actually cups at all, and they're simply presented with the teapot as a collection of objects or forms that relate to each other. 

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49 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

IMO for a form to be considered non-functional, it must be pushed far enough that its lack of functionality is clear, and these pieces don't go that far. Instead, they would come off as poorly functional.

Interesting, these to you appear functional - just likely a low level of functionality (for the assumed use) or maybe not the most convenient way to store dispense and consume something?

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Posted (edited)

Well call me old school but words mean something, and functional has a meaning.  "Functional pottery" has a meaning and it means that the main purpose of the item is to be put to some use.  I'm with Neil, I don't think it fails as a piece of art - that is not the point I was after.  But I DO find that it fails as a piece of functional pottery.  Maybe some people don't care if something works "poorly" vs something that is actually designed with the intent in mind in order to not just barely do the job, but do it WELL. I am not among that group.

I'll bet you dollars to donuts, whoever has that piece now is displaying it.  Which is fine.  But it isn't actually functional.  Given that the artist presented it as a piece of "functional" pottery it is perfectly well within the purview of the observer to judge its functionality, and that set is extremely poorly designed for actual use.  The fact that it works as art doesn't change that. The fact that it would perform its alleged "function" only very poorly is a valid criticism.

Now if you want to evaluate it as a piece of art, its functionality doesn't come into it at all. But it was not presented in the article I read in that way.  It was presented specifically as "functional" pottery.  It is a very poor example of that category.

The little big-bellied vases could be put to use as say bud vases.  But as drinking cups, they're a total fail.  No matter how cute.

Edited by Pyewackette
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41 minutes ago, Hulk said:

I'd like to see the article.

Google search brings up an article in the June 2015 PMI by Sumi von Dassow with a subscribers extra from Mike Jabbur featuring the images posted by @Pyewackette above.

Quite a lengthy article, the parts discussing his thought process below. (not including the instructions and images he gives for making the pots)

While the teapot form isn't one commonly seen for liquor I can see it being used for brandy, the cups are somewhat reminiscent of brandy snifters, bulbous belly shape with a narrow mouth which could be cradled in your hand. The teapot form doesn't need to be able to hold enough to fill the cups.

Below the image of the pots is this caption: "Liquor Service, 12 in. (30 cm) in length, porcelain and earthenware, porcelain bisque fired to cone 06 and glaze fired to cone 9/10 in reduction, earthenware single fired to cone 04."

"Sipping Service by Mike Jabbur

Making a set is always a complicated, challenging task. You must consider the relationships among various elements of a single pot, relationships between pots, the finished presentation, and the processes and materials that best convey the idea of the set. I enjoy this task; it allows me to orchestrate function and consider my pots in a sculptural sense. While every pot has a sculptural presence, working with multiple components challenges me in a unique way that often leads to less obvious compositional solutions."

If you go to Jabbur's website his artist statement sheds some light on his aesthetic.

"As a studio potter, my focus is on the relationship between handmade objects and their role in everyday life. I make objects for daily use in domestic settings, informed by my belief that interesting and beautiful functional objects help to transform otherwise routine activities into meaningful life-affirming moments. Although I exhibit my work in galleries, the gallery is an intermediary space between my studio and the home. 

Utilitarian pots are to be touched, held, filled, emptied, cleaned, and shared. These attributes define and direct my practice. I hope to enhance our breaks in the day—modest endeavours such as afternoon coffee, conversation, and sharing in drink with friends. Yet my pottery also encourages all-too-rare moments of reflection and celebration.

As themes and styles emerge and fall away, or slowly evolve over many years, one seemingly Sisyphean goal remains central to my work: to make pots that feel timeless. I want to make work that appears intimately aware of ceramic history, without directly reflecting it.I avoid both distinct historical references and passing trends. While I am guided by canons of proportion, such as the golden ratio, I seek a balance between tension and resolve. Through this exploration of tension, characteristics emerge that range from austere to quirky, from monumental to diminutive. In any case, I am forever seeking the sublime.

My approach to making is driven by the gestalt principle. I am inspired by historical ceramic objects for serving food and drink, contemporary industrial design, the dignity of craft, the act of teaching, the human experience of shared meals, and the concept of morning coffee."

 

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1 hour ago, Min said:

My approach to making is driven by the gestalt principle. I am inspired by historical ceramic objects for serving food and drink, contemporary industrial design, the dignity of craft, the act of teaching, the human experience of shared meals, and the concept of morning coffee."

Interesting, maybe an annual toast of Brandy with the best of friends for me. I am starting to like the set!

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This discussion is exactly the type I was hoping people would engage in under the post I started in this Forum titled What Were You Thinking? I went to Mike's website and really liked what I found. I "get it" .  Hulk-there is an article there on function & emotion. 

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Aye.

The article reposted under CeramicArtsNetwork.org includes images, however, they don't appear to match up; the original article is likely available via Pottery Making Illustrated, however II, not free. I also selected the link here Articles | mikejabburpottery (click on "Sipping Service"), aha, complete with images.

I've enjoyed reading Mike's article - looking forward to re-reading it as well; he freely shares some of his reasoning and process.

While I'm more of a stein/can/tankard/pint glass/Toby Jug o' beer person, I'd be happy to sit down for some sippin' with folk who are into that...

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