April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Before applying to the British Craft Trade Fair, I was told that it would be a very valuable experience, whether I received any orders or not: the experience of exhibiting at such an event, talking to buyers about my pots and the networking opportunities with other makers. Well, the advice proved to be well founded. Not only was it an extremely enjoyable three days and I took some orders (with a couple more arriving via my inbox), but it was great to be part of the community of makers. Everyone, without exception as far as I could see, was incredibly supportive with each other, chatting, buying things from other people and offering advice on any arising technical issues. It was a pleasure to be part of such a friendly, well-organised event.

I enjoyed talking to the other potters about matters ceramic and some of the things we spoke about have occupied my thoughts since. These thoughts coincide with my re-reading David Pye’s ‘The Nature and Art of Workmanship’. It may seem strange for someone endeavouring to make handmade things but when it comes to making my own pots I struggle with the handmade look. I don’t mean in terms of sloppy or unskilled workmanship, I mean the mark of the hand, the trace of the hand. I have an unblemished, ‘perfect’ template that comes from living with and using objects made by a machine. This is my benchmark and it is hard to shift. So, this was part of the conversations we had at the BCTF and I found it quite liberating talking with other makers and seeing and handling their work.

This is an image of a page taken from David Pye’s book. I find it to be an inspirational image, in the context of this conversation, because none of the carved lines that make up the ‘Owl’ are identical, each shows the marks of the chisel. And beautiful marks they are too. You can literally witness the movement of David Pye’s hand as he carves the wood, the surface of which is endlessly moving, stimulating the eye (and if you could touch it, the hand). I love this piece for the overall effect of movement and dynamism, on a macro and micro level.

Exactly the same thing can be said about this tiny guinomi by Phil Rogers (it’s about the size of an egg cup): there is something going on wherever you look or feel. The clay is grogged so as you hold it your fingertips are constantly stimulated; the marks that you see are not of a chisel but of a turning tool; the overall form is symmetrical but within that the nature of the turning has created asymmetry. I am very lucky, as I was given this guinomi today as a birthday present.

The chapter in David Pye’s book that interests me most at the moment is the one titled ‘Diversity’, and these two examples are very good illustrations of Pye’s concept. This relates to form and surface qualities, on both a macro and micro level. Neither of these pieces could have been made by a machine, the hand is visible all over them, and therein lies their beauty.

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