Thursday, June 10, 2010


I know I've mentioned this funny thing I'm on called "The Australian Ceramics Discussion List" before, and I know I've mentioned very funny, very wise potter Owen Rye before, but I can't help it. I live in the country and don't get out much, comments from the aforementioned sometimes make my day.

Recent discussions included a query about how to stop clay from warping. This is something that occurs quite a bit in my own work. Porcelain as an excellent "memory" and when thrown thinly and fired at high temperatures finds it's most comfortable position, often far from a perfect circle. I love this quality. When working on the wheel there is a tendency to arrogance, an uptight attitude regarding the amount of control you have over your materials. It's a funny thing that the wheel, this ancient, simple tool should encourage the modern potter to become obsessed with the aesthetics of industrialisation.
The obvious signs of the vagaries of making each piece individually, by hand are a natural part of handmade ware. The perfect circles and absolute uniformity of industrially produced wares are usually the effect of slip-cast ceramics made in a mold. To try and emulate this in the studio with the wheel is hubris and folly.

Here is what Owen Rye has to say about it.........
"I cannot say what causes clay memory - but my way of thinking is that most 'technical' questions are in reality questions about aesthetics - what is desirable and what is not. If imperfection is your aim, as it is mine, then 'memory' providing some distortion must be a good thing, regardless of how it happens. If white knuckle control (to quote Jack Troy) is your aim - then maybe you need to find materials that suit that. I prefer to find what the material wants and let it do that.
Sorry about the digression, no help in explaining clay memory - but a way around it. "


weddgwould said...

Owe Wry perhaps?
I got really serious about making pots in the 198o's in Adelaide. There was some kind of re-branding of 'pott'ry' going on at the time; lots of hand-building,slip-casting, designer-making etc.We were all trying to make a living. It seems that 'wonky' pots were fine as art but not as product.Selling venues were setting aesthetics based on their ideas of 'perfection' rather than educating punters.Hence I have inherited a weird view about what constitutes a first or second in regard to sales.It is very hard to shake off.

Sophie Milne said...

It's such a fascinating subject Shannon. I do agree with your words but feel torn on Owen's idea of aiming for imperfection. I guess it depends on how you define it but I think I feel more comforatable with aiming for perfection while embracing and admiring the imperfect.

Perfection to me is resolution and completeness which cannot be found in industrial wares and can be found in an Owen Rye pot!

Sophie Milne said...

Rereading suggests I may have missed the irony in Owen's comment, not sure, but either way it is a tricky subject.

I struggle with where to draw the line between wobble or blemish and 'fault' in my own work and agree with Gerry's observations. I have no doubt been influenced by views from the retail world..."I personally don't mind it but it won't sell with that spot there"...and argue with myself regularly on the subject.

Sorry to use your blog as a forum Shannon but it is interesting to hear others thoughts on the subject. Thanks for bringing it up!