Sunday, 27 April 2008

What makes a good pot good ?

OK, this is the down side of reading my blog. You get the downs as well as the highs, and this weekend, having opened the Kiln on Friday evening and found it to be my best firing yet. I have been on a downer ever since. Whats it all about ?.
I wish I knew , but this is all stuff in my head, about the type of pots I make, the shapes, the quality and the Glazes.
I think it is all linked with my trip to China the other week, I didn't want to go, I'm not a great traveller, and having come back I am totally disillusioned with the whole world.
I have always said " you have to create your own world" and having seen how some people live in their world, I am even more convinced I need to create my own little world to live in.
My problems all stem from looking at pots I was making at the age of 16 ( like the teapot ).
I started potting at the age of 11 and by the age of 16 I was making good quality pots, but I was in a world where I was the only potter I knew, none of my family were artistic in any way shape or form. I was an Island totally on my own. I spent all of my teenage years sat in my small workshop making pots. If I had carried on then, I am sure I would have been at the top of my game by now. I don't want to make mediocre pots, I want to make the best pots, one's that other potters would look at,pick up, feel and honestly say that they are good pots. I've been comparing some of my pots to a John Leach signed jug that Marion bought me a few years ago. In lots of ways, there wasn't that much between them. But I know I can do better and I know that in time I will get better. But once you get this sort of stuff going around your head, it's hard to motivate yourself. I have pushed myself this weekend, I have made three very large bowls, shape and form being my main points of concentration on these. I made three 3lb jugs, but only one survived my critical eye. but today I have made 13 small lidded jam pots, of which I think 6 or 7 will survive. The stupid thing is I know what makes a good pot good, so why don't I just make good pots!!.


doug fitch said...

Ah, the headspace of the potter - I feel the same way all too often. It's coming along great Paul, those last pots from your firing are really good and such an important batch of pots too. All those new colours and materials to explore - it'll take time but that's good, if you get all the answers to the questions you ask of the materials and the kiln straight away, then where will be the excitement when you open that door? The good thing about this blog thing is that it's possible to look back at one's archive to see the progress - it's easy to forget how much stuff is developing. Don't panic, you've got good skills and you're finding your own voice which is becoming louder all the time. It's a major development that you've sussed the kiln, now you can really start to do some exciting stuff. There's no hurry, no need to force it, keep your pecker up. We also put our work up against the best, Johnny Leach, Clive, Svend etc., I do it all the time and sometimes it makes me feel like giving up because they seem so far away. But, it's by looking at their work that lessons can be learned and aspirations created. The China experience must have affected you deeply - despite being taxed to the hilt, we're so lucky to live in this country - more so, we're lucky to live in the West Country. Now you've got those pots through you can look forward to doing your show - and the next kiln load! There's loads of information to glean from that last firing that can be developed in the next load. I'll have the four pots that you made at my place fired in time for your show. Sorry if that was a ramble, I'm just saying you're doing fine, keep going.

Earl & Vickie said...

There was a Japanese potter featured in Either Ceramics Monthly or Clay Times a few years ago, I cut out his picture and a quote and put them on the art center wall where I teach. Sorry I don't have his name or the exact quote handy. Basically he was saying that being a potter is a journey, you never arrive, because if you finally "arrive", what's the point of making anymore pots? Each day we, and by extension our pots, should evolve and grow. What is "good" today is not good tomorrow, or next week. It's a process, always growing, getting better, changing. But it's hard to get your head around it sometimes. I work with potters who are in it for the recreation, they do it to relax. I can't understand that. For me, it's the most demanding frustrating thing around ANYTHING but relaxing.

Ron said...

Paul. I agree with all Doug has said.
I like what you say about' creating your own world'. I think we all can do that. I think it's hard at times though because we still tend to compare that place to someone else's. I just got down to look at my last salt pots yesterday again. The majority weren't that strong. I was disappointed in them. I have made much better pots in the past. What happened?... well I think the earthenware has taken priority and now I need to make sure I am making those pots in a strong way.
I want to get better too. I feel like I want to make pots that are "mine". I know how to do that deep inside, but getting that into a physical shape is a challenge. Often what we can do in our minds/heads is way farther along than what we can do physically. So I guess we keep at it, keep asking questions...what if, what if...what now???? It's a hell of a journey, I'm glad we're all brave enough to share our ups and downs.
Keep at it. Keep us posted.

paul jessop said...

Thanks Guys, I don't know quite what to say. Thank you very much for your support, it is greatly appreciated. I no longer feel alone and isolated in my thoughts. your right,it is all just a part of the process that will one day yield results.

Hannah said...

I find the blog thing itself just makes such a difference. There's no denying the up bits and the down bits are still here but there are people to share them with who understand a bit more closely. Yes I have Paul and friends in (for want of a better phrase) "the real world" who are fabulous and I wouldn't be without them but who better to understand a potters woes than a whole big bundle of other potters.

doug fitch said...

As an experienced manic depressive I reckon life would be pretty dull without all the ups and downs, i.e., better to feel something than nothing at all. Pottery suits that kind of headspace as it's full of highs and lows and that's great just as long as the highs are really, really, really high and more frequent than the lows. Dreadful when you're in a trough, granted, but I think that soon will pass and it'll start to flow again - getting back into that positive mental attitude is the hardest thing, good sleep, good food and good exercise.

It already is yielding results Paul, great strides in fact. Empty shelves are the worst thing after completing a cycle. Here's a project, how about making a dozen mugs and decorating each one differently using all your new techniques and materials? I learn a lot from mugs because it's possible to play without being too precious.

Life's a thing of contrast. I would hate for it to be good all the time because then it would be constantly average. It's a bit like hating winter, but it's a necessary part of the journey in order to notice the spring. I think generally that's the case for all of us - blimey, we're all mad - as if I only just realised that! I like Earl's final sentence, he's so right, how can people think this is relaxing?!!

We're a good communtiy on this blog, it's cool that we all look out for each other, speaking of which, are you out there Andrew?

Blimey, what a ramble, anyway, if you fancy coming to my place and making some more pots, just give me a shout and come, you know you'd be welcome.

potterboy said...

Yeah - still here.

Robert Harris said...

I don't know if you get alerted to comments made on ages old posts. But, have another look at this post of yours, and see where you are now 5 years on. And be proud!

Pottery is the New Yoga?

Earlier in the year one of my daughters sent me a link to an article in Vogue magazine which stated "Pottery is the New Yoga"...