extra-curricular activities: pottery

On August 7, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

“Why should one reject the perfect in favour of the imperfect? The precise and perfect carries no overtones, admits of no freedom; the perfect is static and regulated, cold and hard. We in our own human imperfection are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite. Beauty must have some room, must be associated with freedom. Freedom, indeed, is beauty. The love of the irregular is a sign of the basic quest for freedom.” – Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman

I often wonder what people are actually doing with their time. What are they really doing? What are they doing, and why? They are doing every imaginable thing, I suppose, and a number of other activities I can’t yet imagine…but I cannot help but be curious about the micro-level specifics here.

I wonder, too, what am I doing, and why?

Sometimes it seems to me I am not doing very much, and ought to do—somehow, in some way—more. I am surely right about this.

Here is something I am doing. I began, this spring, to take a course in wheelthrowing. I love it, and wish I had taken one sooner. I have every intention of becoming a competent potter, a title that is far away right now but achievable. [Any of you who have tried your hands at pottery will know how challenging it is, and how dispiriting your first attempts can be.] It is deeply satisfying to create a useful, beautiful object. I appreciate how tightly any art or craft is tied to a conversation about beauty/aesthetics, a conversation I have barely begun here but one which occupies me constantly.

Now, about three months in, I am…let’s call it enthusiastic. To approach a craft with discipline and high standards is a supremely humbling exercise. I thought I would show you a bit, pottery being my current vehicle for expression (expression being always, amidst whatever else it  may be, a matter of style) and the activity taking up most of the time not already taken up by work. Being so new I am still feeling out a style, trying out different ideas of what a plate or cup or bowl or vase might be and focusing on learning good technique. These are not exactly useful or beautiful (not useful or beautiful enough to even give away yet, for example) but they are drafts of those things.


Centering, where it all begins and where it can all go horribly wrong.


I am just now making my first attempts in porcelain. I like its responsiveness but I also like the warmth of dark, rough clay bodies.


The glazes are another world of complication on top of the variety of clay bodies and shapes.


Handles are difficult! I am otherwise pleased with this pitcher, with its squat, toddlerish proportions.


I am drawn to many of the traditional Japanese glazes like this shino glaze.


I also like a lot of traditional Japanese silhouettes, like the tea bowl.


Lately I like to make little creamer-like pitchers. Did I mention that handles are really tricky?? I have a new, powerful appreciation for all ceramic handles everywhere.


Things at this point rarely turn out how I imagine but sometimes there are nice surprises. That red part…I thought that was going to be green.


Wheelthrowing involves beautiful tools and accessories.


Trimming is an art in itself. My favorite stamp at the moment is this oak tree.




distraction: Blue Eagle Pottery

On October 25, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Recently stumbled across and have not been able to get out of my mind this pottery outfit, Blue Eagle Pottery, based in Woodstock, IL. [You have no idea how much time I spend thinking about tableware, partly occupational, partly eccentric.] They have two main glaze styles, one of which has completely captured my attention.



How beautiful? I often like the warmth of pottery, the organic, slightly irregular quality it can have, especially at the artisan level.  A lot of the allure is due to glazes, and this one is just what I am always hoping to find. Jagged layers of color like cross-sections of sediment deposits or ancient cliff faces. Also, in a stroke of genius, they make a silhouette called a popcorn bowl. MUST.




Popcorn bowl!

Available on their retail site and a few other specialized vendors. I purchased directly through them, as the prices were better (and quite reasonable). I just picked up a few pieces to use as peripheral touches, serving dishes, whatever I please. I am always weak in the face of cute little bowls, and was in the market for a little vase, and cannot have too many charming ceramic mugs. And popcorn: major food group.

Actually I didn’t get the plate. I am still thinking about that. They have other lovely pieces as well, and the other main glaze is a stunning, deep indigo with speckled texture. Worth a look.

images via Mociun and Blue Eagle Pottery