Thursday, June 17, 2010


The thought-provoking response to the previous post has led me once again to the difficult subject of "seconds". (Thanks Gerry and Sophie)
Tadashi NishibataTeabowl
I have read a variety of views on the subject of what to do with seconds, pieces that, for some reason, don't reach your standard. Brother Thomas Benzanson says that he has smashed 1000's of pots over the years, but in the same essay he emphasizes the importance of not smashing anything as soon as you open the kiln, but leave it to marinate for at least six months. Brother Thomas observes the curious phenomenon of the work that initially caused that sickening plunge of the heart when the kiln was opened becoming, gradually respected for it's own properties and not the imagined picture in the artist's head.

Kazu Yamada Black Seto
My partner, Trevor Hart played jazz trumpet in pubs and bars for years and when fans used to come up after the gig and compliment him he would scowl and point out where the music didn't meet his expectations. One night as he observed the fan's face fall and the enjoyment drain away and he realized that his expectations shouldn't affect others enjoyment of what they could hear. The music Trevor thought he should be playing shouldn't intrude upon the experience of the audience.

I struggle with seconds. So often someone has come to the studio and rummaged around at the back of the cupboard and come up triumphantly holding some old thing that I've been hanging on to because it was still functional and I couldn't bear the waste of throwing it away. That person has gone home with the pot as happy as a clam and I've often visited these people years later and seen the pot in use. Should I have smashed this pot? Just because I didn't like the look of it? What if it is still perfectly functional? The person who took it away loves it and uses it.

The accepted attitude is to be a "master craftsman" and smash all things that are not perfect. I wonder if this is a bizarre Western idea linked to the notions of masterpieces and genius. The very word masterpiece implies that there will be many, many other pieces in an ouevre that are not "master" pieces. I feel it is wasteful to throw away a finished pot, the product of numerous raw materials and a couple of firings, all non-renewable natural resources, because it is not perfect. In my experience perfection occurs rarely, skill and care with materials can produce perfectly beautiful pots that enhance the lives of those who use them.


gerry said...

'there's a crack, a crack in everything,
It's where the light gets in...'
Thanks Leonard.
Thanks Shannon ,nice musical performance analogy...Music and cheese?

Whilst being subjected to a critique during my MA a fellow student commented on the giant cracks in some large scale versions of the willow pattern birds which I had made'The birds were around 1.5 metres tall and hence the bases had been subject to a myriad of stresses.
I was worried about the cracks when the lecturer ( who is works largely in installation) commented that the cracks were part of the material, reflected the process and somehow added a sense of pathos to the piece.

mieke van sambeeck said...

I don't think we should trow out "imperfect" pieces, as you say they might be seconds in our eyes. If people wanted pieces that are 100% perfect maybe the factory made pots would be better for them.
I believe handmade should look like handmade, to a reasonable way and respected as such.