Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cups and Style

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 definitely easier 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?


  1. Very nice forms. You should enter them in the Tea Bowl National. http://www.kcclayguild.org/TeaBowlNationalinfo.htm

  2. Matty,
    I agree with your analysis of creating "bad" pots for the sake of originality. I think with only 1 and a 1/2 years of pot making under your belt, you are still learning and assimilating everything that you are looking at. This is a very valuable process... I think at times, you have a tendency to rush the process of learning because you are so eager and are such a dedicated student of ceramics. I would be very interested in seeing what you make on your own...maybe after portfolios are turned in....without looking at ANYTHING...no books, no youtube, no blogs...NOTHING. I bet that would help you bring all that you have looked at so far into a "style" that speaks to who you are as an artist.

  3. I think that would be a good idea amy, but I dont know if I could do "no books, no youtube, no blogs...NOTHING" what would I do with all my time?

  4. Cinderelish,
    I would love to enter the show but they have an 18 and older rule so I do not think I will be able to. I am going to email whoever is in charge of it and see if I would be able to enter it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. I just found your blog today, so I am late to your question. I like that motto you have about making good pots, and I agree a lot of bad art has been made in the name of originality. So, I think you have adequately answered your own question. If it is important to add beauty to the world what matters if it is entirely original or somehow expresses a unique vision? Beauty is NOT contingent on originality.

    When discussing the issue of 'voice' or 'signature style' I think it is important to ask why the person is making pots. If, as you say, the point is to make GOOD POTS, then these factors are entirely irrelevant. Being a good pot doesn't also mean that it fits into a certain style. Judged on its own, a pot is exactly what it is, good or bad.

    And what is the rule that says an artist is only allowed to make one kind of style? Artists are as complex as all other people, so why would they constrain themselves to expressing only one way of doing things? Isn't part of the value of art that it is an expression of creative FREEDOM? Since when is the point of making art to put yourself in a limited and narrow position?

    Well, Some artists find that a bit of focus helps them work. But this is not a rule for all artists is it? If some folks work better this way it is their choice and may not work equally for all others. Some artists need a recognizable brand to help them earn a living. But not every artist is in this same position or wants to be limited by the expectations of the market.

    In fact, a 'signature style' is neither necessary nor inevitable, and yet there is this pervasive mythology among potters that somehow we are supposed to end up having one and only one. It is almost as if the point of making our art is to express this 'voice'. It is almost as if it is less important whether the pots are any good just so long as they have a certain style. Style first, quality second. Seems backwards to me. Interestingly, most other artistic disciplines recognize style as a tool used to convey a particular message, and not as something personally necessary. What do you think?

  6. carter, I do agree that having a sytle is not neccisary in order to make "good pots"; however, I like the idea that someone could recegnize my pots as being mine. I beleive that a true "style" is something that comes subconsiosly and is truly your inner voice.

    The only way to find this "inner voice" is to make lots and lots of pots. I feel that you would eventually find characteristic details that you like and wish to include in your pots. These details should not be limmiting to what you create. yet they should be consistent.

    I think that the limmiting aspect of "style" is what makes it such a difficult and controversial issue. Warren Mackenzie comes to mind as someone who claims to have no desire for a style, but I can deffinetly tell a Mackenzie pot when I see one.

  7. Matty,
    Great blog! Thank you. A comment about 'copying'. It certainly feels weird and as if one is just a 'hanger-on' with no originality of ones own. But copying is a classic way of studying and learning art. Copying masterpieces has been a form of education and study for 100s of years and is, in my opinion, crucial to learning techniques. Creativity will certainly emerge from there just as you have proven!