November 20, 2012 § 6 Comments

There are two fairs left for me now before Christmas. It’s been interesting participating in the fairs that I have over this (extended) festive period, as it has made me look hard at what I make, the forms and the aesthetic. Interacting with visitors, watching who stops and who doesn’t, thinking about the conversations that recur has given me a clearer sense of who my audience/customer is.

My stand at the Living North Christmas fair in York this last weekend.

When I started out making pots, I had this notion that I wanted handmade to be as accessible and affordable as possible. I still have this notion, it is extremely valuable and important, but I have tempered it a bit.

What I realise is that I don’t make what I thought I would make, which is pottery for everyone. It’s all in the forms and the way the pots are decorated. When you pare everything away and are just left with the form, it’s quite austere. It’s not for everyone. This is a good thing for me to learn. It’s important to go back to what you make and try and see it clearly, to understand it; this builds trust and confidence. Knowledge is essential. My pots come out a particular way and I like that.

I have posted a few times about how as I grew up, in the 70’s and 80’s, the house was full of mass-produced, machine-made objects. We ate off factory-made tableware and gave factory-made gifts as presents at Christmas. This was not unusual; the 80’s was the time of Habitat. I saw/held very little that was handmade. So, when it came to beginning to want to make my own handmade objects, my template was this factory-made model with all its even flawlessness. I struggled with signs of the hand, blemishes, imperfections, irregularity. I wanted to make handmade things but I wanted them to look like they had been bought from a shop. It was only going to lead to frustration.

Now I revel in the handmadeness of what I make, the sign, the presence of the hand. It’s taken some working at – intellectual investigation, engagement with other handmade objects, whether made from clay, wood or fibre – but the rewards are all the richer as a result. The decoration on my pots has come about through the process of their making. Where I hold the foot of the pot to dip it it leaves a space free of glaze and a lovely contrast in colour and texture; my fingers leave traces of their progress up the pot as I throw it resulting in an undulating surface for the glaze to catch in; glaze darkens as it collects for longer on the inside of a bowl on the side from which it has been poured out, giving the bowl energy and movement. Each element of the process of a pot’s making is evident in its manifestation. It is all about the process, there is nothing else.

This isn’t for everyone. My aesthetic isn’t for everyone. And knowing this is actually quite liberating.

§ 6 Responses to 19.11.12

  • Joseph says:

    I went through a similar journey myself, but at the moment my thoughts are beyond where I was and am interested in looking the other way round, but that’s a story for another day.

    Some peoples preference will always be towards the industrial, towards that bone china mug that etc. they each have their own story when they talk about their favourite drinking vessel. But then story, the tale is what drew me into handmade tableware with especially with the writing of Euan Craig.

  • Pete's Pots says:

    Browsing through other potter’s blogs & came across yours. A phrase in this post had a strong resonance – I too went through an early phase when I sought industrial perfection, and it was surprisingly difficult to break loose from this restraint. Better now – hope!!

    • It really is surprisingly difficult to break free from. I think we have to work our way out of it – I’m getting there slowly. I like your blog, by the way, it’s really good…

      • Pete's Pots says:

        That’s kind of you to say so – yours too! When I set it up a year ago it was only going to be a temporary thing, but I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve enjoyed doing it, not least the contact with other people, worldwide, potters or not but mostly so.

      • There’s nothing quite like the craft community; I’m a big fan…

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