Tuesday, 3 April 2012

More experimentation with closed forms

Five lidded vessels and two carved sake cups

Recently, I've started making a series of these lidded jars, and I must say, I'm really enjoying the experience. I'm finding that this kind of closed form allows alot of scope for experimentation with shape and building techniques. Some are thrown whole and others are thrown and coiled. Adding a coiled component to the form gives them a slight asymmetry and perhaps more character and individuality. It also allows me to slow things down and think carefully about the outline as it develops, although there is always an element of uncertainty which I like too.

I'm not sure yet how I'll try to finish these pieces. I'd like to do some finger-wiping through slip, but the timing of that is tricky since the lid has to be cut through by hand. Adding lots of slip will soften the piece again and it will be difficult to cut the lid out without disturbing the slip layer..so I may have to add the slip after making the lid, which then creates other issues. I might also do a combination of underglaze decoration with poured ash glaze..I've been inspired recently by the freedom of expression in Toshiko Takaezu's work. I'd also like to leave a few plain, or perhaps just give them a layer of terra sigillata, then fire them in a wood kiln. Some gentle flashing on the surface of these  pots would probably work well.

I also enjoyed reading Ron Philbeck's blog today..in his last post he says how furiously hard he worked yesterday and yet only managed to partially complete five pots. I must say, I laughed when I read it, because I have so many days like that myself, when I'm left asking myself where all the time went and what the hell have I actually achieved in 24 hours. For me, the truth is that I spend more time than I should, thinking about and evaluating what I've done, what I'm going to do, the processes involved and where my work is heading etc., and maybe not enough time grafting at the wheel head. Work involving hand-building really slows you down too, and it's difficult to get a production flow going when pieces are at different stages of dryness. And ofcourse the weather affects how long the clay can be left before it requires attention again. The other problem for potters (like most artists!) is that, ideally, demand needs to match production... I remember reading about Suzuki Goro, who, after years of practice, was able to throw about 1250 yunomi in ten hours! These days in the UK, there just isn't the demand for hand-made, functional pottery to allow you to market pots on that scale. Having said that, maybe the secret is to make 1200 and only keep the best ten..but then I wouldn't fancy recycling all that clay by hand..


A small selection of my work is available on Folksy


  1. I know the pleasure to make a rounded forms :)
    Hope all will be nice with yours. Theay are so beautiful !

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, I hope some of them will fire okay :)

  2. It is nice to see the round forms against the carved sake cups.
    I've seen Toshiko Takaezu's pottery in the Mingei Folk Museum in San Diego, CA. It is powerful work. They had a film on her making one of her tall vessels. I was mesmerized and inspired. At one point she built a small fire inside one to dry it a little to keep it from slumping. Even she didn't want to wait long to finish this jar!

    1. Thank you, Charlene. I've only seen examples of her work on the internet. Indeed, she was (and is) an amazing artist..I think it takes alot of courage and patience to create such large pieces in that way.