Thursday, July 30, 2009


Whose Pot is This?

It is reoccurring theme that appears on CLAYART discussion list as well as many other pages on the internet.

"Can anyone tell me who made this pot?".

Most of the time no one knows. Even fellow potters.

I find this most puzzling.

Artists who work in two dimensions nearly always sign their work. It is expected to find a signature or distinctive mark in the corner or on the reverse.

So why don't potters do the same? Granted, we do not seem to have the same copyright issues of artists who could have their work reproduced in print form. But does that make it really any different? And we have considerably less space to work with for applying our signatures.

We in the West have been heavily influenced by oriental craftsmen over a long course of time and, the mystique of 'the unknown craftsman or artisan' has been associated in tandem with the aesthetic.

It seems to me to be a sort of dreamy romanticism that doesn't serve the artist of today. And believe me, the modern craftsmen of Japan as well as the rest of the world does not seek to be anonymous.

Identity = Income these days. Branding plays an enormous part in marketing just about anything. And any savvy artist who wants to make an income on their work must market it in the face of stiff competition.

The first step, of course, is to master your art--that goes without saying. Quality work speaks for itself. Sometimes style can be so distinctive that it renders signatures redundant, but not that often. And it's a mighty long road to THAT destination, I can tell you. You still are in the clutches of the publicity monster no matter how you cut it.

Note: A few minutes' search on the web resulted in these images.
The pots are marked, but the marks are not enough to identify the maker.

Take a look at the bold signature beautifuly incorporayed into the design on English artist Sandy Brown's platter. Believe me, everyone knows who made that piece.

Or you could take the Robert Arneson tack and just do portraits of yourself and/or use your name prominently.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Let's face it. You have to be your own critic.

You must step out of your own skin and look at each work with a cold eye.

You must decide whether to sell it or keep it; shelve it or smash it. The decision has to be made before it goes from your hand to the market place or into your archive-that collection you're saving for your thesis show, one man show, your new sales collection, your retrospective.

It's easy to fall in love with your own work. After all, this sum of your expression and skill distilled into one statement. This love affair can last a long time--sometimes years. One way I ameliorate this dilemma is to photograph my work as much as I can. Even if I sell a piece, I can always go back and review the form through images. I find it easier sell things I really loved if I can keep the picture.

I recently photographed one of these teapots for entry into a show. It is a repeat of one that had sold for an installation in Seattle some years ago. I decided to duplicate it. Look what happened when I did.

The old pot is on the right. The new pot is on the left.
(Please excuse the rather old, battered slide. Thank heavens I can take digital images.)

What a difference a few years make.

The newer pot has a better handle line and negative space. The old pot, a better body line.

The old pot has a better spout and more interesting legs.

The newer pot has a better glaze.

The old pot sits lightly on the surface as if it had just come to rest there. The new pot looks like it is sitting very solidly on the table.

The older pot has more 'life' and spontaneity. The new pot looks more 'put together' and 'of one piece.'

I like the faint line that subtlety divides the body of the new pot.

I like them both, each in their own way. And I suspect if I did another one, even though the form is limited to a few design elements, the new pot would have it's own personality as well.

P.S. "Considerations for Critiquing Claywork" by Lana Wilson, with additional contributions by Hayne Bayless, is an excellent article in the July/August issue of Clay Times.

Finding a Trend in Your Own Work

Recently while going through some work digitals, I discovered a lot of tubular handles on my work.

They are are so ubiquitous, I didn't see the trend until the images were opened up as a group on my computer desktop.

Most of these handles were made of solid clay.

The two teapots below are the same form, but the handles are entirely different.

I thought about a tubular clay handle for "Texas Tea" but decided on a cane handle instead. (That was before I discovered a technique for drying large handles that won't crack.)

When I attached the cane one to the pot, it didn't seem to work visually. I thought about painting it black, but decided that wouldn't work well because of the chance the paint would flake off, if not immediately, eventually.

It pays to be a pack-rat. I had a stash of black leather cording and wrapped it around the cane. It worked. The black leather reduces the importance of the handle's image, and fits well with the eccentricity of the pot.

"China Tea's" handle looks as if it has been threaded through the supports, but of course, this is a fool the eye kind of thing. The connection "hooks" were added on the outside of the ends. The top section of the handle is really not that heavy--it's hollow.

And this last pot is an out-of-the-box (What box?) kind of thing.

Taking the handle and pushing it into a different element on the pot, as if the handle had split and slipped down the sides of the form, it is a playful variation of the idea of a handle.

So, think about analyzing your work by taking a good look at what could be your own trends.

Then, think about taking that element and interpreting it in a new way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ravens & Crows

Those smart birds who patrol the lawns, flipping leaves and twigs, making comments about each one. Talk about multi-tasking. They can inspect, walk, rearrange their feathers, and watch everything around them at the same time.

This is a great sculpture/dish shown at the Phoenix NCECA convention early this year. I wish I knew who made it. It was in a student? group? satellite show in one of the hotels, I believe.

Maybe this person has listened to ravens or crows just a bit too long. Or is it a dish for serving humble pie?

In any case, it is certainly engaging work and a nice piece.

We don't have ravens, but we certainly have crows. Big ones.

Just for laughs, they land on top the ducks bobbing in the bay, they dive-bomb any eagle who shows up. They try to drive away the squirrels with noise and make nasty comments about my husband when he's in the yard. You'd think they owned the place.

But there's always a flip-side. Right now, the local crows are being nagged by their adolescent children. The offspring are nearly as big as their parents and can now only be distinguished by the 'feed me' squawk and trembling wings posture.

"Gimme, Gimme, Gimme." There is no rest. "Dad, can I have the car? Oh, pleeeeese."

Ah, it's always the same.......

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Teapot Spouts

One of the problems with teapot spouts is dribble. The spout angle, the throat, the belly of the pot - all have an influence on how well the pot pours.

This little guy does a fine job. The open spout is more like one found on a coffee pot, but no matter. I'm a firm believer in doing what works. I have a German coffee pot with a spout much like this one, but it has the added feature of a fine groove just under the lip and a tiny hole drilled near the tip. Has something to do with allowing air to catch that last drop and it works well. One day, I may try it.

And, of course, the stands are fun. Protects surfaces from the heat of the pot and they are easy to throw. Just make them upside down. I let mine dry on smooth batts so little finish work is needed.

Maybe a slight upturned lip on the stand and a bit more extension out past the base of the teapot would excuse a dribble here or there from a faulty spout.......but then, that would have to be done by throwing the stand right side up, but that's do-able.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Table Tiles

This is a table top interlocking tile project made to fit an antique D-leaf table. The glaze resilts were a bit of a surprise, but you can see my continued fascination with wings, flying etc. in the pattern. The glaze was a matt white applied onto a light clay in thick strokes to give the impression of feathers without being too uneven to support hot dishes.

Each tile was backed with a solid piece of dark green felt much like the kind of backing found on table pads.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2009 Results

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor'east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May", a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish' for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

The winner of 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is David McKenzie, a 55-year- old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. ...

For more hilarity, go to