Making a simple cup out of clay is a collection of processes strung together, one after another, layered in succession. The finished piece that’s set on its plinth is a compilation of successes in carrying out processes while meeting a succession of standards.
Failure to meet any single standard along the way results in work that’s tossed onto the shard pile.
A cup shouldn’t pretend to be a cup… it should be a cup. It’s not analogous to a drawing of a figure, smudges on paper, an illusion of something real. Instead, a cup is real and needs function with the intent of purpose.
This realness of function bestows the worth of function. That recognition of worth is a limitation that is difficult to escape. Where art helps us expand the boundaries of our experience, it’s challenging to recognize how an object of function approaches that role without first being dismissed as decorative craft.
Does the role of a craft object assist in the expansion of our experience by bringing a calming serenity through the familiarity of its function?
The question that’s poking me is whether any more time should be invested much further at this particular watering hole.
This project is still proving to be entertaining, and it’s a broadening exercise as long as each new work is intentionally designed to be just that (but that’s the case with any work)… Still, anyone could be making this work. With that in mind, it probably be a better use of time if I didn’t stay parked too long on this idea. Also, being that this particular project has no real defined purpose, I could just as well be investing my time in other activities with no purpose, activities that put me closer to where I want to be, figure drawing and painting.
Seeing this project through to completion will be the fun, but then it’ll be time to head back to the drawing studio. It’s been almost over a month since I last sat down with charcoal but it feels like much, much longer.
Looking back over the past few weeks and there’s been tangible headway made on developing design strategies suited to this process. Sitting this close up, all that movement seems s-l-o-w. The time left available after a day of work has proven once again a constraint, allowing for just an hour here and an hour there to explore this process. The effect of this limitation of time has been to focus exclusively on working on floral motifs while the the details of process becomes more familiar.
Initially, what was wanted was a haptic look to the surface designs, the foremost desire being the need to see the handcrafted quality front and center. I wanted the qualities of these surfaces to lead into qualities of similar in nature found in the forms as well. The emphasis is on subtlety asymmetrical forms. These forms are created using disruptive throwing techniques and hand cut foot rings. The results are proving to be objects of character and comfort.
The belief has been that by making 100 yunomi and chawans using this surface design process, that the project will find a recognizable look and feel, and that by setting out looking for work that prioritizes character and comfort, the work will find itself landing consistently close to the mark that’s being set out by the end of the project.
Having my hands working functional clay is still very much the process that I deeply enjoy, and even as the process goes slides sideways, it can be all that much more fascinating. The combination of thrown, cut, sliced, and torn has an earthy allure of something hidden away. The blowout just accents the beauty of a layered strata of actions.
Rummaging around with this paper and slip transfer process in collaboration with Jess, working to see what arouses our interest. I’m still finding that it’s the pieces that initially feel uncomfortable are the ones that are generally returned to for reconsideration. The results has been growing on me, but it’s still all question marks.
I’m beginning to think of this as “the monster theory “. The condensed explanation is that most of us continually scan for anything that stands out from the ordinary. It’s hard wired into us as a survival strategy. When something new pops up and proves to be surprising, confrontational, challenging, and yet possibly alluring, we surprisingly often, find ourselves held in a state of arousal. We begin to associate what is being presented with that state of arousal, and a curious attraction sets in. It’s a short hop to becoming infatuated with our monsters.
The problem with what’s being presented is that now there’s a definite developed preference for feeling challenged by any work being set down for consideration. To be pleased with an object for it’s honest character (even if it’s an objectionable example of character) is in many ways preferable to an alternative of simple beauty. It’s a realization that I enjoy the arousal of monsters and question standards that are accepted without a need for thought.
So what lessons are we learning from doing these yunomi?… just relax and play. Don’t accept the first thing that works and run with that. Find the edges of what doesn’t work and move to adjust. Violate your aesthetics. Question your expectations. Trust your ability to experience a process. Steer towards results rather than imposing ideals.
Once again, I’ve managed to trip into making a series of work that, while I enjoy making what’s being made, I don’t currently possess the ability to understand what’s being done… or whether this series is worth making. It’s all too easy to imagine something into being, but it’s more of a challenge to imaging people choosing to pick up the work with appreciative hands.
I’m still playing with the yunomi that Jess made for me a few days ago. The single feature that I adore with her work is the way she creates her foot. They are free hand cut. The confidence shows in the stacked furrows, each the result of a single turned cut. Three cuts total. Gorgeous. Trying to let the work be itself without attempting to be over controlling… steering towards results rather than imposing ideals.