April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

On the back of a review in an old copy of Ceramic Review, I have recently bought a book called Pottery Form by Daniel Rhodes. It isn’t quite what I anticipated but, I think, because of that I am even more excited.

It is a practical book covering every aspect of the potter’s trade from wedging and centring to trimming, handles, plates, and glazes and decoration. Rhodes has been working with clay since 1940 and this knowledge and command of his craft are evident in his writing. It is a step-by-step account, a how-to book, and he is an expert guide, with the aid of photographs and basic diagrams. Rhodes’ skill is in his ability to take the reader through even the most basic elements of the pottery process and for it to be accessible, engaging, inspiring, and, practically, extremely useful.

But what excites me most about this book is the life that Rhodes gives to clay, to pots and to pottery. He talks at one point about how breathing into a freshly made bottle demonstrates something about shape. “The soft clay of the bottle gives under the pressure of the air and expands lightly like a bolloon. This stretching and extension can sometimes make a perfunctory form miraculously come alive.”  This is exactly the effect of his writing, and he spoke directly into my heart.

Just one example:

“The two basic maneuvers [sic] of throwing, swelling out the form, and narrowing and restraining it are at the heart of the potter’s art. The music of the wheel sounds in this undulation inward and outward, swelling and contracting. The function and spirit of the pottery jar is taking shape. Its mass, dark, voluminous, and generating, is formed by the hand feeling and urging outward from center. The upper neck and lip constrains the volume below, holds and protects its contents, moving with elasticity back towards the central axis.

From an ample and sturdy base the walls of the jar rise. The form immediately reaches outward, curving, responding to the pressure of the space within. We speak of curves and profile, but what is happening is volume.”

Being so inspired it is difficult not having ready access to a wheel or the time in which to practice. I just want to sit at the wheel and throw.

Here are two forms that I threw last Friday. For some reason I keep wanting to remove all the throwing marks, which I am going to resist next time I am at the wheel.

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