‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Potters Potting

A few years ago I did the marketing for a woodfired pottery show. I marketed it so successfully that I was sure I could not go on without buying a piece of woodfired pottery for myself at the end of the show. And so I did.

And when I brought it home (it was a sugar bowl), I noticed that my life did not seem to change.

I realized that I had been taken in by a clever marketing scheme and was a) very proud of myself and b) a little confused. What exactly was it I thought I was getting besides a pretty neat looking sugar bowl?

In preparing for the show, I asked potter Ben Krupka if he used handmade pottery at home. Of course, the answer was yes. He said, "each piece has its own personality, just like people. It makes beverages better when housed in a handmade cup or mug. Really, if you think about it, there aren't many things we put to our lips. We use them to kiss and things like that, which make our lips a very sensual part of us. So I guess you have to treat them well. Why take such a sensual object and put a styrofoam cup or paper cup to them?"

Why indeed.

And then Sequoia Miller: “I find using industrial ceramics to be like having a conversation with a mute person. Handmade objects have a particular point of view that is a combination of the maker, the material, and the user. Using handmade anything simply gives you more to respond to. It’s like riding a horse versus driving a car, only much less inconvenient.”

There is something nearly metaphysical about handcrafted things that we use every day. It's almost as if the person who made it is sharing your meals with you. Someone has made something for you to use in your home. For you to drink your first cup of coffee in. To walk around the house with and eat your cereal out of. They actually thought about how it feels in the hand. How it will be used.

We've rubbed out the fingerprints and cleaned up all traces of humanity from so much of our lives. Why do we think that sleeker is better? There are times when it's really handy to be able to make a bunch of things that are identical (computer chips, indented hexagon slotted size 8 screws), and there are times when that really shouldn't be the criteria.

But I'll hop off my soapbox and tell you what happened with my sugar bowl.

After doing all my homework, I had a pretty huge appreciation for the process with which it was made. I actually appreciated something I bought after I bought it. And I continued to appreciate it. And then that rubbed off on the other things in my cupboard that people have made. And before you knew it, I was getting all warm and fuzzy every time I offered someone a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. And then I was appreciating the people who were drinking the tea out of my quirky, non-identical mugs.

And it really did make everything better.

And I don't actually know if there is such a thing as an indented hexagon slotted size 8 screw.

More People I Dig: Mark Shapiro, Sam Taylor, Keith Kreeger

In case you're curious, Ben describes woodfiring:
"People have been wood-firing ceramics for centuries. This method of firing produces a certain aesthetic created by the flame and ash. Wood ash settles on the pots and melts, creating a unique glaze. The flame flowing around the pots creates dramatic “flashing” on the surface of the pieces. Stacking the kiln takes three days, as I consider how the flame and ash patterns will affect each pot. The kiln requires three days of continuous stoking and consumes ten cords ofwood. For months ahead of a firing I am wood gathering and cutting. I use a combination of pine, willow, and cherry to obtain specific surface and color effects. I find and purchase wood which is either ready for removal from someone’s property, cast-off from industry, or standing dead. While I am able to control the firing to a large degree, the kiln yields surprise effects on occasion which are a large part of the joy of the wood-fire process.

"Because of the nature of wood-firing no two pieces will be exactly the same. At first glance some may appear to be the same, but on closer inspection one finds subtle nuances of difference. Because my forms are gestural and expressive of the personalities of people, this firing method suits my pots - as we all have marks which distinguish us from others. And, as with people, pairs and groupings may considerably compliment one another’s qualities."

If you have never seen a wood-fired kiln, click on Sam's link above. The kiln's are beautiful - buildings really. You walk in to load them. Often several potters will share a firing - partially to fill the kiln and also so they can take turns with the round-the-clock fire stoking.

1 comment:

Love Monkey said...

I know exactly how you feel about your handmade things - of course you put it better than I could. People often comment on all of my "things." Maybe some people think I'm materialistic. But I just really like nice things - especially nice one of a kind handmade things.