Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why pots?...

...or maybe better still, why not?

Pots, especially pots that are utilitarian, are, simply put, lovely to touch, hold, use and have in the home.  This thought came about recently with an article I read about a show of bowls at the Portland Museum of Art, along with information on the show that was published in the NY Times (titled..."Finally, the Bowl Gets Its Due" - and then widespread across the Internet.  A lovely concept and equally provocative exhibition, highlighting the quiet, yet powerful place the 'bowl' plays in our lives.  I will take this one step further, and also say the quiet, and provocative place functional handmade pottery plays in our lives.  A posting on FB by my wife, Mary, captured it all when she said "Do you have a favorite bowl?  If not, you are not getting your dishes from a potter".  Well said, but then again, she lives in a house full of pottery and uses them every day, in every way.  But still...I think she's right, if you don't have a favorite bowl, well, you know.

It all made me pause and start to think more about the things I make in the studio, and their connection to the pot, or rather, the utilitarian pot. Now understand, I do make functional pots from time to time, but I never claim that as my main work.  I would love to, but I get so easily sidetracked seeing the pot/vessel form in the abstract, and how ideas of function work on so many levels.  The spirituality of functionalism is of great concern to me, and because of this I so easily stray from the pure utilitarianism of pottery forms.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying what I am doing with pottery forms is not good, and for me, it is essential.  You see, I cannot help but see the pots I make as abstractions of ideas that are contained in the forms that have their roots in everyday pottery.  While I started with a background in functional pots, and even had a great experience doing an apprenticeship at a pottery, it has always been the 'what if' of functional forms that intrigue me.  But in the end, I am most comfortable working with the pot/vessel form, and I often think it is like an umbilical cord that keeps me tethered to the roots of what I love...the pure functional pot that one can use every day.  And while there is a lot of sculptural clay work out there today, and much of it very good, I just can't seem to disconnect myself from the pottery forms I love, even as I stray away from pure functionalism.

So, I guess what I am saying is that the pieces I am making now are more connected to functional pottery than previous work I have made, yet they are still not the most 'functional' of forms.  Can it be?  Hmmm, I just can't seem to help myself seeing pottery forms in a way that take me on a visual journey (not to say pure functional forms cannot do this, and they indeed do).  Yet for me, vessel abstraction is still part of a pot being functional.  How many levels of functionalism are there anyway? Boy, I hope I am not finding excuses (sometimes I think I rationalize things in a way that would make Freud turn over in his grave!), and if you are confused, think how I feel. But thinking out loud may help me work through the ideas I have that are ongoing in the studio, and in the bigger picture, what's really more important is that there is work ongoing in the studio.  Just make stuff!  It will all make sense some day (he says hopefully!).

But as for functional pottery, and for those of you who do it so well, you are my heroes! 

Here are a some images of some ''work-in-progress'!

pierced vessel

Slab tray with thick slip