I just got home from visiting Utah State University and Norther Arizona University. Dan and John at USU and Jason at NAU were all really helpful and kind. Thank you all for everything and it will be very hard to decide which school I would like to attend. Back to the point of this post. When I was visiting NAU I was lucky enough to get to watch Jason give a demo in one of his ceramics classes. Among other techniques Jason made a bowl that he textured the outside of with a rope. I had seen this texture before but never knew exactly how it was done.
I recently received a commission for a sake set and thought that this texture would be appropriate for the form. At first I was skeptical about this form but found through making it that I actually liked it a lot. I like the modest scale and the opportunities for different surfaces throughout the form. I had a lot of fun making these and hope to make some similar pots in the future.
Simon Levin and Lloyd Cledwyn have just released the Wikipedia of clay. Wikiclay is a new resource for all clay artist around the world. I believe that Wikiclay will become a huge and very help full resource for the entire clay community. Please head over to Wikiclay and post about what ever clay related topic you feel like.
About two weeks ago I helped to fire the East Creek Anagama. This was a very special firing as it was the 25th anniversary firing of this kiln. All of the pots turned out very well and I am extremely happy with the results. Although I could ramble about the pots, I think I am going to just let the pots speak for themselves today.
This past Sunday I attended a workshop by Sequoia Miller at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts. I have been reading Sequoia's blog recently and when I got the chance to see him work I had to take it. The workshop was supposed to be two days but Saturday we unloaded the 25th anniversary firing of the East Creek Anagama, more on that in a couple days. Although I missed the first day of the workshop I was still able to see Sequoia alter and decorate a lot of pots. My favorite part of the workshop was when sequoia demonstrated making a teapot. The teapot he made was pretty incredible so naturally I had to make one myself. I changed a couple things here and there but I will definitely have to change the design more to make it "My own". But, as I have said before, I would rather make good pots then bad pots for the sake of originality.
The thing that I changed most about the teapot is the lid. Sequoia makes an inset lid for his teapots while I chose to use the style of lid I have been making for a while. I also changed the lid to make it relate to the squareness of the teapot. I will admit that this is the first ever idea I have actually used that I came up with by drawing the pot first in my sketch book. I am usually against drawing pots before making them but I think that it definitely helped me out with this one. I think that my biggest problem with the design of the teapot is that I want to work out a way to have a more traditional foot ring. I like the feet that sequoia makes on a lot of his pots but I don't think they relate very well to the style of pots that I like to make.
I made some cups this week. I made them by texturing the outside and then pushing them out from the inside. I'm still just playing around with the form of these cups and they are still very Simon Levin 'esc. These cups range from tea bowls to sake cups. I like the forms and I think that I have some good new ideas to go off of. I am struggling to make them my "own", but I think that will come in time.
This brings up another point. I have been talking and thinking a lot about personal style. Ceramic arts daily recently posted an article of Simon Levin's that talks mostly about self critique but also brings up some good points about style. Simon brings up the point that he would rather make good pots than make bad pots for the sake of originality. This point really speaks to me and I think it is very valid. The topic of pots being original and "your own" is a major concern of the ceramics community currently and I think that it may be a little over emphasized. A lot of bad pots are being made today simply for the sake that they are original or new. I think that this is a very wrong approach to making pots.
Although this may seem like a desperate way of me justifying copying other potters it is definitely not. I am fully aware that I copy others pots. I believe that finding your own style or voice is very important and I am practically obsessed with the idea. I am extremely envious of potters who have found their "style".
Back to Simon's point. The ceramics community is very generous with sharing techniques and glazes and anything else you are interested in. With resources like YouTube, blogs, and workshops it is easier than ever to copy others work. A lot of time this copying happens subconsciously. I have found that controlling the impulse to copy starts with copying the pot you are inspired by as best you can. Say you find a mug that you are very inspired by. Sit down and throw ten of this mug. As you go you will find qualities that you like and dislike about the pot. Then make a second series of the pot and emphasize what you like and discard what you don't. This process will eventually lead to "your" mug. This is a very over simplified description of the process and it is definitelyeasier said than done.
Well thats enough rambling for now. Please let me know what you think about style? Is it over emphasized? Is it important?
I have continued in this new direction. I have been making some pots and just trying out new techniques. I feel like I am getting back into the fun of making pots rather than the routine restricted feeling that I have been stuck with for a while. I have been trying everything that comes to mind without dismissing ideas because "they don't fit my style". I like the idea of taking something and making it your own, in this case a certain technique. One of my main concerns at this point is texture. I like the idea of showing the textures that are left behind in the making process. My favorite being trimming lines/marks. These being the almost horizontal facets that a wide loop tool creates. I feel that, when done right, these lines show confidence and spontaneity.
Another technique that I have been working with is paddling. After making a couple of pots, the technique that I found works best for my desired result is as fallows. A bulbous form is thrown to the desired final shape (maybe a little less bulbous than desired). Then, before turning the pot over to allow the foot to dry (for me the next day) the pot is re centered on the wheel and, with a hand supporting the inside, beaten with a textured paddle. Then, a rib is used to push the form out from the inside to make the pot round again as well as finalize the shape. The pot is then allowed to dry further and is trimmed and finished the same as any other pot. I am still working out how to make bottles and other small necked pots with this technique. It is also difficult to do with smaller pots.
I have been using up some porcelain that has been sitting around for a while. A couple of months ago I was considering switching to working exclusively in porcelain (why I have porcelain). I eventually decided that I did not want to make the switch. The two pots above (lidded bowl and small bottle) were made from some "poor mans porcelain" that I tried out. The body is called "Hanjiki Porcelain" and is made by Georgie's Ceramic Supply.
Another change I am working on with this new direction is the feet of my pots. Before I would add two parallel concentric lines to the inside and outside of the foot ring and then sign and date it. I am currently favoring this style of foot. I trim the foot the same as I used to and then "mess up" the outer edge of the foot with my fingers. I also made a stamp that is simple but effective. I think that with this "new direction" I am trying to convey a more simple look, stripping the pot of many unnecessary details to allow the form and surfaces to stand out.
I think that my main idea is to capture the "done with ease factor", "Rakuness" as Soldner would say. Although it may be ironic to talk about something that I want to seem natural or easily well done(for lack of a better term) I think that it is a point worth mentioning. I am (very clearly) having trouble putting this into words, but that is why I am a potter not a writer.