Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tracey's got me thinking...

I'm following a whole new list of blogs thanks to Meredith and the Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story exhibit coming up this fall. So I spend a bit more time at the computer reading blogs by other potters who are also spending a bit more time at the computer writing. This time of year finds a lot of us slower to start, more reluctant to get our hands cold and wet.

Yesterday I cleaned up the glazing mess and wedged some clay. Sometimes, I can rationalize my way out of working. I could throw cylinders today, but if I do, then I have to be able to work on them day after tomorrow and the forecast is snow and the kids will be out of school, so I'll get interrupted too often and the whole thing will dry too fast, and it will all be wasted, so my time would be better spent elsewhere. Like finding a better way of keeping my pieces wet or catching up on reruns of The West Wing.

I was reading Tracey Broome's blog this morning, and she got me thinking. She makes sculpture and some functional pots, too, but is never happy with the functional ware. I do the same thing. I'll be in the studio, looking over the shelves of work when it hits me that no one can actually use any of my pieces. So, I'll sit down at the wheel and throw some bowls, reminding myself that it's good to have some around to donate for Empty Bowls. I do throw cups for the Studio Tours simply because I can't stand the idea of using throw away cups for the cider and wine that I serve. I sell them cheap because they don't really match and are thrown too thin or have a rim that dribbles. When I tell people that I am a potter (not clay artist or ceramist), they immediately ask about dinner plates or soup mugs. I reply that I really don't make that sort of work because I don't enjoy it, and there are so many other folks who do it so much better than I ever could. I will talk about the artists who are represented in my own cupboard, why I like this potter's mugs or that one's bowls. Then these folks take a look at my work and try to figure out exactly what it's for. I feel compelled to be forthcoming about its lack of a specific function or else suggest some farfetched possible uses. Umm, one customer said she was going to use it for flatware...

I am completely content with not making traditionally functional pottery. I will still make bowls, not only because I believe in Empty Bowls and it feels good to donate, but because I really like trimming. I will still make cups for the Studio Tours twice a year, unless I have enough leftovers from the previous Tour. And I will continue to take suggestions from friendly folks as to how to use my pots. Lauren Bellero calls them "Room Jewelry".


  1. Kari..great post too..Yes, Tracey has got us 'all' thinking today and that is terrific! :)
    I really like your 'non'functional pieces - which can be they are functional in a wonderful creative way. :) I like the 'soft' brown glaze on the bottom it a 'tea dust' glaze?

  2. Trish, you confirmed what I have suspected: the color in my photos is all wrong. The glaze on the bottom basket is a satin black. I've got to get better lights...Thanks for the compliments.

  3. Kari - you and Tracey both have us all thinking today. I can't make non-functional work -- it just goes against my practical nature. I've had long conversations about creativity & practicality -- I don't even think about creating non functional items -- doesn't enter my thoughts.

    My husband is very imaginative & I'm astounded sometimes by his processes when he works with clay. I just scratch my head -- and wonder what made him think of that.

    I so admire art for art's sake & think it is absolutely valuable -- I just can't make it. Your work is wonderful - I love the baskets! (bottom one looks dark brown to me too).

  4. and I posted this week about the same sort of topic: people ask me to make something, but I don't really wanna: I want to put my heart and soul into what I am excited to make, HA!

  5. Always good to see potters responding to their community through Empty Bowls. I live in a small rural community, and this has added so much to my practice as a craftsman over the last decade. For a Canadian view, have a look at Love to hear from any enthusiasts.

    Jackie Seaton
    Salt Glazed Pottery, Perth, Ontario.

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  7. It's ART. It's not a plate, or a bowl, or a cup...what comes from your specific heart and spirit is ART. I'm sorry that people look at it and try to figure out a function for it, that just tells me we as a culture don't value art for art's sake. And it is to our huge detriment. I know we've had this conversation in the past, and I know it is not your nature to be snooty about what you create, but dangit people! It's beauty created. Ok. I'm finished. I also love the bottom brown/black piece! Lovely.

  8. Hi: I'm just catching up with all the blogs and read yours tonight. You know I could have written this very same blog, I had to laugh at your reason for making bowls. Trimming is really the only reason I make them, I finally figured out how to do it and I really like the way I trim my bowls haha! of course I only like them out of my raku kiln so again they aren't very useful! and I can never explain what half the stuff I make is for and I really get tired of trying to think of things to make that can be "used" for something! I'm glad there are more of us out there!!!

  9. I've thought a lot about functional and non functional ceramics too. I really enjoy making non functional pieces and I like hand building. the top piece has a beautiful peach color glaze. the last looks slightly brown to me. I think black is hard to photograph and will look brown in many photos.