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functional and conceptual considerations for handmade pottery
This special report is brought to you with the support of Mud Bucket Pottery
www.ceramicartsdaily.org | Copyright © 2011, Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | i
ceramicartsdaily. form. From form to function.Contemporary Pottery Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery Potters have been making pots for a long time. Chen actually outline a very important part of making handmade pottery. which is to be stored conveniently and efficiently. A Handmade Clay Coffee Thermos by Kenyon Hansen The idea for how to make a thermos out of clay came from this potter’s use of a non-clay thermos.org | Copyright © 2011. www. he used it every day. which made him think why not make one for himself? After all. materials. but how she approaches making sets and even selling pottery. Studio Pottery by Allen Chen In this light-hearted anecdote. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 1 . and these contemporary potters all bring something insightful to the table. and it was part of his regular pottery routine. but in Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery. surface integration. and they have been thinking about what it means to make pots for a long time. the potters included here discuss the qualities necessary to make those pieces successful. Studio Pet. and that is inspiration and ideas. from concept to content. She explains how to think about pottery design from the perspective of the end users and how they see handmade pottery fitting into their lives—and their cupboards. She walks you through not only her techniques for making square dishes. Here is what you’ll find in Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery. Pottery made by hand requires conscious decision making about design. and techniques at every step in the process—and for every single pot—so each combination can results in completely different results. The handmade pottery discussed by these contemporary potters ranges from sets of square dishes to double-walled vessels for coffee or tea. The Function of Pots in Storage by Gay Smith What does handmade pottery do when you are not using it? Gay Smith argues that it still has a function. and Suze Lindsay’s brushwork proves that she has carefully and thoroughly considered her approach to this concept. Handmade pottery can mean different things to different people. He will make you realize that seemingly unrelated things can come together in the form of pottery that can set you off in a completely new direction of exploration and discovery. Sets of Squares by Suze Lindsay Integration of the clay surface and form has always been key to successful handmade pottery. we have asked several makers of contemporary pottery about specific pottery forms they make and why.
Finely crafted. stoneware with glaze. 8 in. Brainstorming several possible ways to create a thermos. I was unable to drive to the studio because of the heavy snowfall and steep winding driveway. I recognized my own habit of carrying the thermos and I began thinking about the challenges and possibilities it could hold as an object made of clay. and the consequential failures and learning curve kept me actively involved in the process. During the winter months. After a while. thoughtfully made pottery can contribute to a renaissance of tradition and habit. Each morning I would pack a lunch and fill a thermos with coffee or tea for the long studio day ahead. wood fired. The technical challenges made the process of invention fun. so I walked. with the technical problems resolved. The long trek gave me time to think about the pots I would make that day.A Handmade Clay Coffee Thermos by Kenyon Hansen Thermos set. though. I worked in Matt Kelleher and Shoko Teruyama’s studio in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | . I am much more interested in the aesthetic issues and the roles such pots play in our lives.org | Copyright © 2011.ceramicartsdaily. L ast year. My hope is that the pots I make can play a role and be a factor in a renewal of ritual. I strive to create pottery that is 2 www. In the end. (20 cm) in height. I enjoyed solving the problems of making double-walled vessels.
I start off by throwing two cylinders. lidded pitchers. I make coffee pots. allowing it to function both visually and physically. I am very curious to explore how these forms function.org | Copyright © 2011. I find it challenging to build such complex pots. After I measure it with calipers. The first is made with a flange at the base. I throw a ridge in the shoulder to fit the lip of a mug. When I throw or handbuild. Once everything fits. and handles to both the mug and thermos. I roll a coil and connect the two walls inside at the top of the inner wall. containing a healthy dose of spirit and care.ceramicartsdaily. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 3 . and thermos sets. The pot then goes back to the wheel where I collar in the neck above the double wall and finish the forming at the top. Curiosity often www. I add texture. I’m engaged in the conversation. Many of the forms I’m interested in are built around the act of consuming and sharing liquids. Clay allows me to play with the physical language of these forms. and I measure that before I throw the mug to fit the ridge. line. both considered and balanced. I slide the larger over the smaller one and connect them at the base. Once they have set up a bit. and make the interior about ½ of an inch wider than the exterior of the first. Part of my interest in these forms revolves around how much I enjoy drinking coffee and tea. Next. teapots. with so many different elements needing to harmonize. I throw the second cylinder about two inches taller.
approximately 9 in. to 15 in.Three lidded pitchers.com) in Bakersville. while the desire to find something new guides me forward. Marketing my work is still very new to me.crimsonlaurelgallery. stoneware with glaze.strictlyfunctionalpottery. His work was included in “Strictly Functional Pottery National 2010” (www. 12-hour reduction cooling. Georgia. Kenyon Hansen is a resident at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena. Thermos set. Montana. stoneware.ceramicartsdaily. or the belief that the next firing will be better. This year’s “Strictly Functional Pottery National” was the second professional opportunity to which I’d ever applied—a residency at Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts being the first.net) and also can be seen at the Signature Shop (www. in its own slow time. wood fired. has prevented me from applying to more shows and other opportunities. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 4 . I’ve participated in a few small art fairs. so that’s still new to me.org | Copyright © 2011. and have sold work out of a couple of art centers.thesignatureshop. (23 cm) in height when stacked. I’ve been making pots for about seven years and continue to be my own worst critic. North Carolina. Perhaps my own insecurity. I approached my first two galleries very recently.com) in Atlanta. So maybe I’ve simply been waiting for my work to evolve into something more personal. I was accepted into both. (38 cm) in height. anagama fired for 6 days to cone 11. and at Crimson Laurel Gallery (www. www. pushes the dialog.
(25 cm) square. does it stay round or is it altered to reflect the form? I am continually asking questions like this. The plates need to be thick enough that they don’t warp in the firing. it is up to me to decide how I create a dialog between these pots. When working with slabs. Beyond that. slips and glazes. and bowl. yet light enough to be able to stack for storage. After throwing and altering or forming from a slab. If a thrown foot ring My interest resides in creating a “family” of pots when working in sets like this.org | Copyright © 2011. they were thrown on the wheel. both to “finish” them and to compress them and provide strength. it is always important to consider all the edges and how they are treated. or use the same palette of slips and glazes to decorate each piece so they are recognizable as a set. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 5 . salt fired to cone 10. Working with the square. stoneware. 2010. so those edges are defined and refined in some manner. my problemsolving concerns the patterning and the painting of slips and glazes that emphasize specific areas of the pots. A place setting would include a cup. n integral part of my work is using surface decoration to enhance form. I can approach the unifying set by the form alone. I have studied various cultures and inspiring historic ceramics that influence the way I organize spacing and place motifs. dinner plate 10 in. Another consideration is the decision and application of the foot. with a diameter large enough that the plate would still be 9 inches to an edge when the rims were cut square. dinner plate. A Square Meal When I first started making square plates.Sets of Squares by Suze Lindsay Square place setting. A is added. Building a Set Function First First there is the functionality. The construction of this kind of plate led www.ceramicartsdaily. salad plate.
forkmountainpottery. or rice. and then how I might guide their interest from a traditional set of bone china to handmade pottery for their table.ceramicartsdaily. The edges are smoothed in order to compress and strengthen them.larkandkey. on view at Lark & Key gallery (www. to a “soft square. Below: A slab is cut using a cardboard template and is draped over a dry. we try to create areas that suggest how we live with pots. I realized I wanted the square to be more articulated.Right: A thick slab is roughly cut and placed in a bisque-fired mold and is then pressed down into the mold using a bag filled with sand. Works by Lindsay were included in the “Table Manners” exhibition. Suze Lindsay makes pots with her husband Kent McLaughlin at Fork Mountain Pottery (www. which does not take long on the porous plaster mold. so I went to the handbuilt slab form with a thrown foot ring.net) in Bakersville. North Carolina. Accepting a larger order of place settings requires time for the potter. and patience on the customer’s end. grog.” and when I looked at it critically. and that edges remain thick enough so that they do not slump in the firing. Clear communication between the two “parties” is essential.com) in Charlotte. to cupboards and particularly a kitchen table for place settings. Selling Sets I think about people who like the tradition of a “china pattern” for their new home. The slab is stretched into the mold until it nearly reaches the bottom. A tall foot ring is then added. one needs to be sure the added foot is properly centered from the rim. plaster hump mold to create a curve. Technically. these areas help the customer imagine how pots may feel in their own home. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 6 . From mantles. and a squared-off foot ring is added after it has set up. North Carolina. www.org | Copyright © 2011. In our gallery.
a kind of interactive sculpture. The 7 www. Rims are measured with calipers as I throw them so that when they’re squared. Depending upon the configuration. They stack up tall and compactly. the stack is a unit. The bowls are squared for structure because this gives the stack greater stability. raw glazed. is their ability to stack. as well as an important visual decision. edges. 4½ in. ’m always trying to pull my pots back toward function.org | Copyright © 2011. and that the foot will not rest on the interior floor of the piece below it. thrown porcelain with stamped decoration. stacking easily without chipping feet or rims. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | . one piece. Their size must be appealing for morning cereals or special desserts. The stack is a series of individual pots piled one on top of the other.The Function of Pots in Storage by Gay Smith Print bowls. particularly with these bowls.ceramicartsdaily. My infatuation with tactile appeal. color and pattern can be either intentionally or randomly reordered. fired to cone 10 in a soda kiln. How and where each pot touches the one above and below it is both an important structural consideration in how they stack. bowls will layer differently every time they are put away in a stack. This way. darted. when making a stack. each pot will rest upon the one beneath it without rocking or keeling over. (11 cm) in width. I The Function of Storage The desire to create pots that could stack was inspired by my need as an avid pottery collector to find space for new pots. but just as importantly. I know that hip will meet lip. and altering usually tends to trump functional concerns. requiring minimal horizontal space in your cabinet. and it’s important that they be sturdy enough to withstand daily handling: going in and out of the sink and dish rack or dishwasher. What interests me functionally. Through use. like homemade ice cream. The main functional concern with making pots to stack is that the diameter of the foot will slip easily into the diameter of the rim of the piece below it. drawing the thrown line between foot and rim.
org | Copyright © 2011. They are pressed into the surface while the form. is supported from the inside. thrown slightly thicker than normal so it can stand up to the stamping. After the bowl form has dried to soft leather hard. www. the pots are covered and allowed to dry slowly until they are stiff leather hard. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 8 . They are then dipped in slip and/or glaze and dried completely before being fired in a soda kiln. The darts are brought together in order to change the shape of the form from round to square (which tends to be the most efficient shape in terms of cupboard space). After the darted joints are reinforced with a coil of clay on the inside.Wooden textile-printing blocks are wetted to prevent them from sticking to the clay. the rim is marked in equal sections and darts are cut at those points.ceramicartsdaily.
Teapot. But I’m actually more interested in told they were from India and were used to the textured patterning to provide engagprint fabric by hand. I imagine bringing a sense of fun and celebration into the use of these bowls. 6 in. I was to grip. The texture finds its way to the interior of the bowl with soft finger marks from resisting the exterior pressure of the pattern-making. The beauty of the patterns they raw glaze the pieces by dipping the textured create is a gift from these unsung artisans. I portion of each bowl in a glaze or slip. I am looking to create an interesting tactile surface with a repeating visual and tactile pattern around the exterior hip or belly of the bowl. I texture the surfaces by rhythmically impressThe textured surface means the pieces are ing carved wooden blocks into the clay as I easier to handle when hot or cold.ceramicartsdaily. Their carving is exing. fired to cone 10 in a soda kiln. The blocks were acquired ing fingers dancing about with something from a fellow Penland teacher in 2005. Each bowl is intentionally different from its neighbor. tactile pleasure or experience. or choose to use one over the other depending upon mood. So. liquid settles in the indentations and I use a Surface Texture www. thrown porcelain with stamped decoration. The am grateful to them. And the tremely intricate. The exterior surface of the bowl is lightly ribbed to provide a smooth canvas for the marks. the surface texture is a indentations provide me with places to inlay collaboration with unknown.org | Copyright © 2011. keepthrow each bowl. (15 cm) in height. raw glazed. an advantage when stacking as it means rims will not chip. which actually prevents their sticking to the pot wall. and the blocks are dipped in water prior to each impression. Thus the stack is less able to be directly interpreted as round. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 9 . The pot wall must not be too thin for impressing. The user will perhaps develop favorites. After darting and trimming. I imagine the face of the stack as a constantly changing painting made by the user. I craftsmen. highly skilled glazes or slips. squared hip or belly of the bowl has more visual impact for presenting a “flat” face in the sense that the stack might be read as a two dimensional image.
Tumblers. I can then suggest that they might also be used for dessert and that they can go into the dishwasher and microwave too.org | Copyright © 2011. raw glazed. (www. North Carolina. Gay Smith makes pots in Bakersville. Often. Marketing Form When the rim of the bowl is still flexible but the overall consistency is a soft leather hard. each 5 in. Her printed bowls were included in “Table Manners” at Lark & Key gallery.larkandkey. perhaps the minimal space requirement gives a collector a means to justify a purchase. because they are squared.com) in Charlotte. or they’ll ask if they are vases. (13 cm) in height. fired to cone 10 in a soda kiln. I hope the ability of these bowls to be stacked increases their marketability. I take four triangular darts out to alter the rim of the bowl from a circle into a soft square. North Carolina. folks who are not familiar with altered or handmade pots will ask what they are for. After reinforcing each seam with a coil. and emphasizes the shapes and patterns in the textures. I mark the rim into four even sections.ceramicartsdaily. I make sure that the foot is not too high so that the foot does not touch the floor of the bowl under it when stacked. See more of Gay’s work at www. I always answer “yes!” to the latter question. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 10 . the bowls dry slowly under plastic until they are ready for trimming.gertrudegrahamsmith. Any vessel can be used as a vase. They are abstracted and impressionistic. www.com. A round pedestal foot is trimmed under each pot. This layering gives the rich colors to the surfaces that I am seeking. Then. thrown porcelain with stamped decoration. and a positive response to any inquiry is much more likely to spark a good conversation. One of my jobs is to educate as many people as possible about using pots every day. Then another glaze (or not) is layered over this when the pot has set up enough to take the next dip. soft rubber rib to wipe away excess while it is still wet.
my slop bucket. The image of him raising his tail while dropping hard little black pellets on my teapots and cups haunted my dreams. I had hoped that it would hibernate during the harsh winters of northern Indiana. I tried everything but I couldn’t catch it. “No. Squirrel Quad Pitcher. (20 cm) in height. anagama fired to cone 13.Studio Pet. as well as an unfortunate habit of leaving his droppings all over my clothes. but according to my extensive research on Wikipedia. stoneware. Studio Pottery by Allen Chen Double Squirrel Parody. Why www. I called the pest control center and they told me that I had to use a live trap because it’s illegal to kill chipmunks. stoneware. anagama fired to cone 13. they only partially hibernate. it’s a chipmunk. and my work. uring graduate school at the University of Notre Dame.” I emphatically protested. The chipmunk had a seemingly insatiable appetite for the various cereals and oatmeal that I had stored in my studio. Was he trying to tell me something? I was thinking about this chipmunk so much that I became obsessed. it was too smart. 8 in.ceramicartsdaily. as if to say that I had no D idea there was a difference between the two—which I don’t. (20 cm) in height. I had a frequent studio visitor—a chipmunk.” the exterminator corrected me sternly. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 11 .org | Copyright © 2011. 8 in. “But it’s just a squirrel. and apparently this particular chipmunk’s hibernating schedule did nothing to slow down its bowel movements.
org | Copyright © 2011. swooping handle that came up from the base and over its top.Redlodgeclaycenter. After pulling a coil. and it will never make it to the pages of Ceramics Monthly.strictlyfunctionalpotterynational. The main challenges in making this pitcher stand proud—the contents must pour well and the handle must be ergonomically smart—was a series of trial and (painful) errors. visit www. go to www. or www. I needed to make a pitcher that celebrated the critiques that the chipmunk had been leaving in my shoes and my glaze buckets. The handle is cleaned and smoothed with a damp sponge to further refine the form.com. are the true consumer demographics. The handle is attached to the chipmunk-inspired pitcher at the base of the form. body. This will always be a reminder to the chipmunk that even though it is smart and mean and has great taste.facebook. Chen forms the handle’s shape using his palm on a plaster bat. A statue of the chipmunk in its finest moment with its tail winging high above and forming the handle of a pitcher. For further information and to see more images of his work. And the people who are sensitive to the story. The primary shape is further defined by trimming the sides of excess bulk. and soul into our work. His Squirrel Quad Pitcher was included in “Strictly Functional Pottery National 2010.” For further information on the exhibition. www.allenchenart. Squirrel Quad Pitcher. www.ceramicartsdaily. in the end it is just a squirrel. I have traded or given away most of my favorite pieces to friends and family who are kind enough to show appreciation for them. I have noticed a particular demographic purchasing this work from me—particular in that there are so few of them.was this chipmunk defecating on my pots? Was this a critique of my work? Why didn’t the droppings stink like the critiques that I was getting from some of my professors? And why is it that I take everything so personally? One day I was having coffee in the design studio when I suddenly noticed a elegant stainless steel coffee pot with a graceful.com/aaachen. I find that hollowing out the handle does wonders in decreasing the weight while also adding the strength it needs to last through a week-long anagama kiln firing. the ones who care enough for it. I had found my answer. Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 12 .net. Allen Chen makes pots in Red Lodge. Montana. And I called it. I personally feel that because we pour an enormous amount of our minds. The finished. hollowed handle is set aside to stiffen until it is leather hard.com. the story behind it really becomes the meat of the work. Clay is carved from the handle to reduce the weight and avoid slumping in the kiln.
Ceramic Publications Company | Contemporary Pottery | 13 .www.org | Copyright © 2011.ceramicartsdaily.
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