March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I come to pottery from a Fine Art background and have always struggled with the notion of the accessibility of art. I often find art to be an alienating experience understood, predominently, through the eye and the brain. I know there is a bodily, sensory appreciation through one’s physical relationship to the object but for me it remains partial and unsatisfactory. I stand back, look and contemplate – yet, there is a frustrating separation. I confess, I never have been led by my intellect.

There are undoubtedly exceptions. Rothko, for example. We went to the exhibition of his work at Tate in late 2008 or early 2009 and both found the experience to be visceral, raw, almost primal. It was totally unexpected.

Mural for End Wall 1959

But I want to touch. I want to be able to experience the object in my hand, to know its weight, be reassured by its physicality. I need to know that it exists. This is why I am learning to make pots. Soetsu Yanagi (in The Unknown Craftsman) says that pottery is ‘at the convergence of all the physical attributes’. He says that it embodies three elements: the hands, a specific patterning of experience; the visual; and surface texture, colour and ornament. And if it is functional ware, which is what I want to make, then you can add to that taste and smell.

I am booked on a 2-day throwing course at Swarthmore this weekend and I can’t wait to get at the wheel.

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