One of my favorite pottery items to make is mugs. I have never arrived at a shape or style that I particularly felt was ‘mine’, but it doesn’t lessen the pleasure I find in making a mug that touches on something that I’ve loved in other mugs. There is, of course, also the element of use and necessity which, at least from some perspectives, is missing from sculpture and other purely ‘art’ forms. I could go on at length about the necessity of visual and emotional and visceral enrichment, but that is for another time. Right now, I decided to make a series of mugs in simple shapes, to focus on working handles, aiming for them to feel good, and have a sense of life to them. There’s nothing quite so bland as an industrial looking/feeling mug handle. I made one mug a few years ago, which is now somewhere in New Hampshire, I believe, that had the most perfect handle I’ve ever made. It was a large demitasse size, simple, and the handle fit perfectly. It was sturdy enough at the top to feel like you were really holding something, and thin enough at the bottom that it almost seemed silky. To me, it felt like an extension of my hand. But I needed gas money, so I sold it. Every handle I’ve made since then has been an effort to achieve something like that again. I know you can’t go back, so what is perfect now may be different than what that was, but I keep trying to find the perfect handle for now. I made these mugs at a Kansas Day celebration at Kauffman Museum in North Newton, with a varying number of people, young and older, watching. The enthusiasm of the littles, trying clay, and checking out the motor on the wheel, and how the motor turned the wheelhead, and then the clay, and then the shaping, really made it worth it. I wound up with about 35 different shapes and sizes, some of which didn’t survive, but here are some of the ones that did:
I’m really looking forward to seeing how they feel coming out of the kiln next week. I’m pretty sure there is one that feels like that New Hampshire mug. There may be a couple more that are perfect now.
This leads into a series of figures I’ve been working on, too. There is a parallel between mugs or other pottery and figures, to me. There can be similar gesture and energy in the forms, and there’s a sort of primal element, too, in the sensation of holding. This series is an effort at body language, and finding forms and visual language to join to the images from the series’ of tiles going on right now, too. Someday, these will join into the work that I am trying to get to but haven’t been able to get there till now, as I learn to put the pieces together. So, these little guys, especially toward the last few, where angles and shapes became more gestural and free, will eventually inform the larger work I’m aiming for. I’ll finish these in a couple of different colors, with a matte/satin low-fire glaze I’m working on, in an effort to find surfaces that fit the vision for what’s still coming.