ceramics I love

So, what makes a great pot (ceramic, that is)?

Great Form and Design by West Michigan Ceramic Artists and more

Ceramic artists (potters) are a hard working group of people. They have a commitment to making the best pots possible that reflect their personal story using clay. Pots can be very straightforward like a human body: functional, beautiful and strong. Ceramic work can also be complicated, abstract, and sculptural. One of the things that I love about clay is that it connects us to others. It is a basic material that can be used for many things.   As humans, we have used it for thousands of years to assist us in our daily lives. Tony Clennell I believe that we are all creative. You do creative things all day long:  what you are wearing; how you cook your food; how you mow your yard; and more.  Being creative can heal and connect us to something deeper than ourselves. It makes our lives richer. Using handmade pottery does enrich your life connecting you to a larger world; reminding us to take just a few minutes to consider the story of this pot; and to breathe.   So what makes a good pot?   “The best of pots through the ages have a quality of timelessness about them that transcends chronological and cultural boundaries. The essence of form, the movement of a brush, the quality of surface. Pottery is neither painting nor sculpture, although it has elements of both.” (excerpt from Robin’s Hopper preface in his book, Functional Pottery) Robin Hopper There are several things to consider, when looking at a piece of functional pottery: Proper use of the selected clay body and glazes. Does the pot function well for the use intended? The overall design of the pot. Which clay body and glaze is best? Any clay body – earthenware, stoneware, porcelain – can be used to make Fantastic Interesting Pottery Forms. IF the maker applies correctly formulated glazes and then fires the work correctly. What I mean by this is: Earthenware is typically what we call low fired. We have one artist – Michael Kifer who uses this type of clay. It allows him to get unusual colors and textures. Think Bright Reds, Blues, Greens, Yellows. Michael’s pottery can go in the dishwasher. I wouldn’t put it in the microwave for more than 40 seconds. Raku – is not earthenware. It is a type of firing. Typically these clay artists use groggy clay to handle the contraction and expansion of clay that occurs during a raku kiln firing. Four artists at C2C creating raku work: Tonya Rund, Scott Berman, Mike Bryant, and Diane Niehof. Stoneware – is a mix of different chemicals that help the clay be very forgiving when working with it. It is great for planters, dishes, serving pieces, vases, etc. We have several potters who work in it either throwing on the potter’s wheel or hand building to make their work. Artists at C2C who work in stoneware are: Mike Taylor, Julie Devers, Polly Wellford, Richard Aerni, Jerri Puerner, Jacob Koster, Cory McCrory, and Mary Kuilema. In the 1700’s, porcelain was considered “white gold” and history told us that in those days it caused greed and theft. Bernard Leach, a British potter, was one of the first artists to create a fairly reliable porcelain clay for ceramic artists. At C2C, Marion Angelica, Brooks Bouwkamp, Jerri Puerner, and myself use porcelain. Does the pot function well for the intended use? When you pick up a mug, do your fingers fit well in the handle? (This is a personal preference.) If you pick up a bowl, does the bowl feel balanced, not bottom heavy. If you run your fingers up from the inside of the bowl to the rim are the walls of it an even thickness?   A casserole (lidded and un-lidded) can be very lovely for display and use. You should ask whether it can go in the oven (into a hot or cold one) or be used just for serving food. Does the lid fit comfortably on the base? Is the galley where the lid sits substantial enough to handle use? Or will you need to be careful when replacing the lid? If you are selecting a teapot; do you collect or will you use it? Many teapots are created just for pleasure; others for use. Does the teapot pour well or dribble? When you are pouring liquid from it, does the pot feel balanced? Remember you will have hot liquid inside of it. You don’t want your hands to be touching the body of the teapot. Can you pour the hot liquid easily? What makes a good pot? The overall design. “Trust your gut when looking at a painting or a piece of pottery.” Intuitively, we all know whether a piece of art “works”.  When considering pottery, we use terms like: shoulder, belly, lip, neck, and foot. We look at the form’s proportions. How does the piece feel in your hands? Will you be picking it up often? Is the form graceful?  Did the potter pay attention to the small details like the rim and foot of the pot?  Does the surface decoration work with the form?  Are the decorations appropriate, interesting, and well constructed?   A famous Greek philosopher-mathematician named Eudoxus is said to have carried a walking stick with him. He would ask friends to visually divide the stick into two parts at whatever point they sensed it to be most pleasing. Much to his satisfaction, the majority of people chose a point close to the same place on the stick. From this he deduced that most people are spontaneously drawn to the same ratios. The Golden Mean or Rule is also fascinating in that the living world follows this natural law creating pleasing forms and relationships. (excerpt from Functional Pottery by Robin Hopper). This is what I mean when I say to a client “Trust your gut when looking at a painting or a piece of pottery.”            


What’s in a signature or chop?

Does anyone recognize the maker? It's almost the last day of the year.  I am working on a newsletter focused on "what makes a good pot?".  Taking pictures of pots from my collection.  I can't remember who made this teapot.    Help me out.


Ceramics I Love – A video on Japanese Wood Fired Pots.

Ceramics I Love - Wood Fired Pots   Ken Matsuzaki is a Japanese potter who was artwork was featured by the Goldmark Gallery in 2007.  This film shows you process: creation of a pot,  fire a wood kiln, and get pieces ready for exhibition.  We have two potters in the gallery who fire their ceramic work in wood kilns:  Julie Devers and Mike Taylor.


Remembering Robin Hopper – potter, teacher, gardner, author, mentor, & friend

Robin Hopper tooting his horn I have been thinking about writing this blog for awhile.  Reading other friends posts about Robin made me reluctant to do it.  What else could I say about this man?  He was known by many for his workshops and books/videos.  He was a national treasure of Canada for his artwork, research, and many years of teaching.  April of 2015, we brought a birthday lunch to his home.  It was a special day filled with horn blowing, laughter, and of course sharing of knowledge. You can find lots of information about Robin on the internet.  Tony Clennell was special friend to both Robin and Judi (Robin's wife).  I believe that he will be speaking at the next (NCECA) International Ceramics Conference on Robin's behalf.  I am sure there won't be a dry eye in the room and mostly because the goal will be to make the crowd laugh so hard that they cry.  Click on Tony's picture below to read his farewell to Robin (You will love his wit.) The Last Supper - Tony Clennell One of Robin's last projects was to produce a DVD title, Swan-song.  It shares this artist's 70 plus years in the arts, his wit, and love for teaching.  ALL of the proceeds goes to two things he loves:  arts education and pediatric cancer research.  When watching Swan-song, I laughed, cried a bit, and learned a few things.  You won't regret purchasing a copy.  Steve Branfman at the New Hampshire Potter's Shop was a good friend, helping him with this last project.  You can purchase from his site.   Swan-Song DVD I want to share Steven's post because I think he says it so well:  " Swansong is Robin’s final contribution to the world. It is a labor of love that speaks to his love of art, history, culture and philanthropy. In the introduction to his last book Robin Hopper Ceramics, Robin’s words describing the book summarize his life;  It is also a love story–a somewhat unusual love story. It is about passion, intrigue, and obsession. It is a story about a lust for life, a thirst for knowledge, a passion for pots, a mania for mud and minerals and a commitment to furthering the development of ceramic communication and education. " I am grateful for my time with Robin and all that I learned from him.  I tried very hard to never say anything foolish or ask a question where the answer could be found in one of his books.  He left the world a better place.  I believe that he hopes many of us will take up his torch to better our personal worlds.  One of the last things he said to me was to remember to be kind, look for the good or bright side of things, and just keep "making". "Try It and See" Some images of Chosin Pottery Gardens and several pieces from my collection: Click to see more garden images Robin's obituary:  Times Colonist An article about Robin:  December 2015 One of our conversations recorded One of his last public performances at NCECA:    


Ceramics I Love – Fong Choo and his miniature teapots

Fong Choo I attended one of Fong Choo's workshops 12 years ago. He is known for his miniature ceramic teapots.   Fong is a clay artist living in Louisville, Kentucky.  After watching him work, I knew that I needed one of his pots for my collection.  This ceramic artist creates them on the potter's wheel, making all of the parts, and then putting the tiny components together.  They actually pour but you would never use one.  Fong continues to teach and participate in exhibits across the country.


Ceramics that I Love – Covered Jar by Aaron Moseley

Aaron Moseley Aaron is a ceramic artist at The Ceramics Center located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  He is someone to follow!  He fires many of his pots using a soda kiln or a wood kiln.  He creates interesting pots that have movement and great lines.  I am going to have to keep an eye on his artwork with the thoughts of purchasing for my collection.  


Ceramics that I Love – Teapots that Dance – Carol Wedemeyer

Handbuilt Teapot by Carol Wedemeyer

Carol Wedemeyer Carol Wedemeyer is formerly from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  She is a footbag freestyle competitor, dancer, and sculptor, along with a love a travel.  Carol's statement talking about herself:  "As I aim to hold happiness in life and in making art, I look to find balance between intention and circumstance; fantasy and reality; the man made and that which comes from Nature."  I wondered what footbag was and found a video of Carol competing.  Pretty amazing foot work and ceramics.  


Ceramics that I Love – A nod to Native Americans and Seed Storage

Bob Green Bob Green is a Massachusetts ceramic artist who lived for several years in Vermont.  He loves the history of Native American potters making vessels for storing seeds.  The small openings are to prevent critters from having access to the next year's crops.  He fires using several different methods focused on the form allowing fire to create interesting surfaces to his pots.


Ceramics I Love – Bottles, Metroscapes (is this a word?)

Paola Paronetto Look what I discovered last night!  I think I just found a new favorite ceramic artist. Paola Paronetto is an Italian Ceramic artist who creates sculpture using paperclay and porcelain.  She has spent the last 30 years creating, refining, and is now making forms that relate to bottles and metropolitan landscapes.  In the past, she worked in porcelain creating functional and sculptural work.  I absolutely love what she is creating today.  


Ceramics that I Love – Large Outdoor Pots – Stephen Procter

Stephen Procter I love huge pots.  They look great in your home and outdoors on your entryway or in your landscaping.  Stephen Procter is a Vermont artisan who loves to make really BIG Pots.  When we were in Crete, we visited an potter who had an acre or more of huge pots that he had made.  You could put me inside of one.  The size of his kiln was amazing.  


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Handmade Art & Gifts

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