Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Gift of Really Seeing

As the year ends with Christmas shoppers hopefully buying lots of gifts of pottery I am wishing everyone success in their journey in clay. My aim for 2013 is to make better pots - especially in terms of form. For this I need to keep training my eye - need to really look at pots. Here is a cup that I bought about 8 years ago. I rarely make bright blue pots and so I guess that's why I sometimes buy them. At the time I thought it was not bad - not great but not bad. Years later I can see that it is a very bad handle and not a very stylish cup at that - not a good foot nor an inspiring form - so actually a pretty bad cup.
Cup with fly away handle - lacking a good foot and
uninspiring shape that I bought several years ago..
My mentorship with Steven Hill  really helped me to look critically at pots and actually see what I was looking at. I thought that over the past few years I had become much more adept at this - especially at discerning good form. I was quite disappointed recently when I bought a cup and totally missed the handle part of it. I bought it because of the colour - a rutile blue - which we have been trying to get in our gas kiln at the Guild with mixed success. It would be an example of what we would strive for. It was not until I brought it home and looked at it again that I realized how bad the handle was.

Handle all wonky - it would not have
 taken much for the potter to round out the handle at least.
Yet it was so obvious - I had been seduced by the colour. I was so disappointed in myself.. It just goes to show you really need to work at "seeing" a pot as a whole. So how can we expect the buying public to choose good design and a well made pot if an experienced  potter like myself can't see it sometimes. So here is wishing everyone  in 2013 the gift of really seeing - seeing good form, good function and making great pots.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fusion Mentorship - November Meeting

Well it was another great meeting - well worth the drive in iffy weather on partially snow covered roads. Fortunately at this time of the year and on early Saturday morning there was little traffic on our portion of the Trans Canada highway . At the October meeting I was last to talk about my work - so this time I had to go first. I was not able to glaze any of the pots as our gas firing was not until the following week so I just took bisque ware of my three themes.

One thing that stuck in my mind that Keith said and that echoed Steven Hills philosophy - you have to keep improving. If you make a great pot - next time make an even better one. If you keep on doing the same thing your pots eventually end up stale.

Well I had worked on the singing ladies/go-go-girls. This time I threw and altered them. It was fun to do - especially adding details - sort of like playing dress-up with dolls - though you would think I would be way too old for that. They ended up a lot fatter, with less movement that I had hoped - so I now have the Three Sopranos. They actually are functional with the hands being stoppers on spouts on the left and right ones and the heads are lids. Next time I will try for thinner and taller and a more youthful looking trio. I would also like the push outs to fit together better so when they are side by side they fit tightly.
The Three Sopranos - thrown and altered. (Photo by Judith Ingwersen)
The Bottom Billion again I had trouble with - I had a sketch which I liked better as the top had much more emphasis that what I actually ended up with. We've all seen aid trucks handing out food in Africa and all the hands reaching up to grab the food - that was what I was looking for. The fish dangling from the top represents the food - and only one fish - so little of it for all those people. The pot sits on an oil slick - representing the natural resources and pollution that is left behind when companies come in to mine the natural resources. The reason that all those countries are in the bottom billion is that they have corrupt governments and are rich in natural resources. That way it is easy for companies to bribe the government officials, so the companies get the resources at a bargain price, leaving the pollution behind while the general population does not benefit at all. I highly recommend the book "The Bottom Billion" which deals with why a billion people are living in 12th century conditions and what can be done about it.
The Bottom Billion - hands reaching up. A fish is supposed to
hang down from the round knob under the  top. (photo by Judith Ingwersen)
The hands need work and the shape of the pot needs to correlate better with the hands and the oil slick needs to be a much more integral part of the pot.

We all agreed that the top needed more work, with suggestions that the fish had biblical connotations and so maybe added gold luster to it would really add emphasis to it. Someone else thought the top was a book - but  it was just a top. Now that I think of it - an open book would be a good idea - more connection to the book A Bottom Billion.

The nuclear theme had me stumped for a while and I finally managed to come up with some ideas as a first go. The cooling towers for nuclear plants have a shape that is ideal for a cup - and I made a spoon that has a handle like a steam cloud that added a whimsical touch to a serious subject. Canadian nuclear reactors are very different from those used in the rest of the world - they do not use cooling towers. However due to the Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. in the 1980's, cooling towers have become synonymous with nuclear power plants,. Candu reactors have fuel in bundles that is quite attractive design wise. So I made a trivet out of the end design of a fuel bundle. So that is my source of heat. (After all - all that a nuclear plant is - the most complicated method we have a boiling water.) I was going to use this as trivets for each cup, but it is way too time consuming to make them, unless I develop a casting approach to them. So instead to using them under the cups I decided to make a coffee pot and put it on the trivet.
Candu fuel bundle
The term Rad on the coffee pot - has a double meaning - rad being a unit of radiation and also meaning fantastic, unique, great -. I called it The Coffee Set for the 45%. (45% is the % of the world population that supports nuclear power according to a Sept 2012 global survey.).) The cups I decorated with slogans like 100% carbon free and I made plain trivets for the cups with other slogans - like "Nuclear power or climate change?" and "Power to save the world!' - sort of hokey - but it's a start.
The cups do not match the coffee pot in design, so next time I will try a cooling tower coffee pot.
Coffee set for the 45%. (Photo by Judith Ingwersen)
I need a better method to transfer the writing to the pots. I used the gum arabic and linseed oil with stains and xerox copies as shown on Ceramics Art Daily.

The pots really need to be a soft leather hard to transfer the printing well - so I need to practice more or else come up with another method using silk screening or decals. It was suggested that I glaze them bright yellow with black lettering - that would really stand out but those are the colours used on nuclear hazard signs. So not an image that I want to project. I want to project an everyday, safe, industrial process.

I did not do any work on the rock wall forest vase for this meeting.
So I have my four themes - rockwall forest vase, the signing ladies/go-go girls, the Bottom Billion and the nuclear theme. Maybe too many themes, but I am sure that I will narrow things down as time goes on. Our next meeting isn't until the middle of January so hopefully should have lots of time to work on things.