What makes a great pot?

“Making pottery is a timeless occupation, and the best of pots through the ages have a quality of timelessness about them that transcends chronological and cultural boundaries.  Their appeal is universal.  The essence of form, the movement of a brush, the quality of surface, the hidden meanings, and the integration with mankind’s daily existence over several thousand years, all add to the significance of the art.” (Excerpt from Functional Pottery, by Robin Hopper.)

Julie Dever cup and saucerJulie Dever’s Cup and Saucer

I couldn’t have stated it better.  There is so much more to pottery than just the functional use of it.  It is one of the reasons that I love ceramics and have collected pots for many years. 
 Often, I am asked, “how is a potter selected for C2C Gallery?”  First and most importantly, the pots have to be technically sound.  What do I mean by this?  What do I look for when I consider a body of work?
Mike Taylor pottery

Mike Taylor’s baker and roaster

 I try to look globally at the body of work.  Is it pleasing?  Consistent design?  Next, I look at each pot.  Does the rim of the bowl relate to the foot ring or bottom of the bowl?  Did the potter consider this?  A bowl needs to sit well on a counter.  If I pick it up, how does it feel?  If it feels heavy, is there a reason for this weight?  If it is light, is it too light?  Believe it or not, I know of a potter, who made beautiful functional ceramic work.  But, as a user, it scared me to use it.  In my opinion, this doesn’t make a functional pot.  It might be beautiful but you would want to keep it for display only.  A truly well made functional bowl, plate, mug or platter needs to feel just right with regard to weight.  If a rim is going to touch the users lips, it must be pleasant for the user.  A well-known Canadian potter would argue with me that a rough rim causes the user to truly consider the bowl or drinking vessel where they will be placing their lips.  Sometimes, a ceramic artist is able to make a bowl or plate have the appearance of weight but surprises you when you pick it up.  What a wonderful surprise!  Handles are another consideration.  Will they be used?  How does the mug or bowl feel when you pick it up?  Can you pick up the form with out touching the body of it?  Is this important to you?  When you look at the handle does it “work” with the rest of the form?
 

Robin Hopper potteryRobin Hopper Jar

Glaze is as important as the form.  Glaze must be stable on the pot.  No flaking.  If you were to take a knife and cut across the piece, would it cause a demarcation, a scratch, or worse cause a crack into the glaze?  If you set a slice of lemon on the pot overnight, the glaze should not change.  If it does, your ceramic piece is probably not food safe. 
“Historically, pots were seldom made with specific consideration of how they might best perform their duties.  However, since the early 20th century edict of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus movement that “form follows function,” both potter and public have become much more aware of how things work most efficiently through the study of ergonomics……… In the long term, the potter must decide whether to make pots to suit specific functions, or to find – or allow the buyers of his or her work to find – functions to suit the pots that he or she wishes to make.  In reality, most us probably do a little of both. “  (Excerpt from Functional Pottery, by Robin Hopper.)
 

Josh HermanJosh Herman’s bottle

In his book The Lesser Life, William Morris, the great nineteenth-century designer-craftsman says:
I should say that the making of ugly pottery was one of the most remarkable inventions of civilization.  

 

We never have ugly pots at C2C Gallery!