With bisqued pots in various glazed stages, an experimental Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) ready to go into the kiln, recently photographed pots up on the website, and a to-do list as long as my arm, I was totally distracted today by a pot I handbuilt 20 years ago that I came upon just a few days ago.
If I had better motivation this week, I would not be writing. I would be decisively choosing glazes to finish my recently bisqued dinner plates and bowls, salad bowls and more. But I'm lacking focus. Happens.
I used to have a used old restaurant kitchen cart in my kiln room. But it was not as good as the more recent wheeled shelf units I've been using for a few years to take pottery to and from the kilns. This old restaurant kitchen cart had accumulated a couple of decades of bits and pieces of things, including the sample projects I used back when I ran the Pottery Shop in Camp Simcha until 2001, things my children made long ago, and things I didn't really know what to do with. I found other spots in the kiln room to put everything from the cart, and washed down the shelves and frame, sending spiderwebs and clay dust and yellowed price labels to the trash. Then I took the clean cart to my overstuffed, disorganized gallery office corner to neatly store shipping materials. But I was not done until I washed the dust off this old vessel that had been sitting on the bottom shelf.
About a foot tall and 10" wide, it is handbuilt, reddish brown, with satin black-glazed interior and a lightly carved, pale blue collar. On the bottom I had signed it and dated it- 1996.
It weighs a pretty serious 12 lbs.
Twenty years ago I was working with light colored stoneware that I fired to Cone 8, which is something like 2370 degrees F. I didn't like glazing. (Still not my favorite, but I got a grip on it at some point over time!) I was very influenced by the coil-built pottery seed storage jars of the American Southwest, and African water jars, and the simplest ancient Japanese functional vessels decorated with earth pigments rather than glaze. So I built this pot out of thick coils, stained it with red iron oxide (some thicker and some thinner application, apparently- see the blackened spots), and cut and closed darts out of the round shoulder to make a narrowed upper profile. I added a collar/rim and brushed it with blue-stained slip, then carved it with a pattern of lines.
The point is, 20 years ago, which was 10 years into my life as a potter, I was thinking and playing with techniques I've followed till today, a continuum I've become much more familiar with since then. These came to mind when I thought of the techniques I've used much more recently than 1996:
Taking darts to alter the line (in the creamer handle area):
Carving through stained slips or underglazes:
and using coils not so much to build vessels but rather to make handles and attachments on thrown pieces:
We start with ideas (maybe this is the term "talent" I've often heard thrown about so carelessly?), and as we learn and grow we spin out those ideas more and more intriguingly.
Hey- thinking this through and writing it down has helped me focus- and get back to the glaze table.
..Now what to do with that old coil vessel..? Umbrella stand? Corner pot? Historical pot on the hearth? Gallery decoration? And of course, if someone loves it enough, sell it..?