30 Years Ago

I remember a ceramics class, back when schools had funding and felt an importance to preserve the arts rather than focus on standardized testing. I didn’t get bitten by the pottery bug back then but it sure must have planted a seed, that lay dormant for around 30 years. This pot has laid dormant as well, in the back of a cupboard, until it was recently found by my mother. I don’t think I actually remember making this one although I can drum up some memories from the class. It’s funny though, I was making kodai (foot) on my bowls since the very beginning. I found the same in photography. Looking back through my oldest images. The style was already there, small, simple and unadorned.

I think we all enjoy reminiscing and having a wash of nostalgia every now and again. The thing that I like about this pot is that I didn’t “care” too much, I just made it. You can clearly see my fingerprints. A pinched pot with a foot that I was able to see again after so long.

Decoration and Calligraphy

Ok so this will be a short post but necessary for me to keep the ideas coming and stored away for future reference.

So in the past month I’ve learned more about ceramics and pottery through Ohi Toshio and Jay Benzel than in the past 2 years combined. Youtube and friends on Facebook are nice for ideas and can steer you in a general direction but there is no substitute for hands on watching an 11th generation master at work or working hands on with someone who has thrown over 100,000 pots in the past two decades or so.

I worked with Jay from Benzel Pottery yesterday and made a few Yunomi and some mugs. Very excited that my throwing skills are improving. I have shied away from the wheel so that I didn’t pick up any bad habits and just been doing pinched vessels and slab construction and just playing around with some ideas so that I can stay in it with the clay.

We did some basic decoration with porcelain slip and it got me thinking about Calligraphy and the pens and brushes that they use. Straight up and down with a calligraphy pen and you get a straight narrow line. Then side to side gives you a thick line. Now add in the variables of curls and motion and you get the graceful transformation of thick and thin. This is not the best example in the world but it demonstrates the point.

calligraphica

So I want to go and get some finger paints. ALWAYS back to the basics. Back to childhood where life was simple and direct and the true spirit of the creative desire lives without complication. Closer to the “source”. Which in my mind, means pure potential.

finger painting

So one finger can go in any direction leaving a single line, thicker or thinner. Introduce another finger and you have another dynamic to deal with how far the fingers are apart. Introduce a third and a fourth or a fifth and the variables grow considerably. Now, I’m not looking for “too much”. Never, ever too much. Always “just enough” is where I want to be. As much done as needs doing and no more.

This leads into a conversation with my wife about a collection of pottery being like an album. A cohesive whole. I completely understand that and I want to focus on a few standard shapes and designs of my own so that I can repeatedly throw them and have a cohesive collection. This in addition to experimentation of course.

This is something that you can never complete. You can never truly be done. In a conversation I had with Jay last night. “Why would you want to get into something you’d never finish?” A very hard question indeed and one that warrants its own post I guess. I’ll work on that sometime 😉

Celebrating Failure

Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with this last firing has gone wrong.

Clay body cracks
Crazing
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Crazing reduces the strength of the vessel by up to 80% A short drop to the wooden floor split this right in half.
Blistering AND crazing
Blistering
Blistering
Pinholing AND Blistering
Pinholing like a CHAMP!
Even a bit of reduction in part of the kiln. Although I must say the reduction looks beautiful!

I’m picking up some dry materials to start testing my base glazes. At least I know that my chosen clay body tolerates overfiring very well.

I’m getting some witness cones (5, 6 and 7) to stack on each shelf and see what they do. I don’t understand whats happening yet. Olympic says that the kiln usually underfires if something is wrong rather than overfiring. The company that makes my clay body says that blistering happens from overfiring. The cones should tell the tale though. I need to get that straight before I drive myself crazier than usual.