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to ray and clayart re: ideal functional forms

updated thu 9 dec 99


Marian Morris on wed 8 dec 99

The desire to be more involved in the visceral and ergonomic aspects of
functional work is exactly what motivates me to work in clay.I am capable of
daydreaming for hours on end about these things without actually ever
lifting a finger, and I get true joy on a daily, hourly basis from the ware
I have invited into my day. It is truly a spiritual thing with me, more so
as I grow older. I get infinitely more joy contemplating these issues than
struggling with materials, which is exactly why I teach beginners and will
never be producing artist. But we must give respect to those who are willing
to struggle with the materials for two reasons:

1. They work out the bugs and cultivate the knowledge that makes it possible
for us dreamers to access commerically developed materials or tried an true
recipes that work in a predictable way so that we can get on with making
ideal forms.

2. In order to live off of production pottery, you have to market
successfully. This means finding the cheapest, yet best materials to make
the things that sell to your particular niche of the market, and using them
in the most efficient way possible. Also, in this culture, novelty sells,
hence the endless experimentation and innovation. That's what takes all the
nit-picking struggle: the need to pay the rent. (ah, but you say if the
forms were more ideal, they would sell more- not true. The bread and butter
of the production potters I know is visually [not necessarily viscerally]
appealing work that sells to those who will in all likelihood use it
decoratively. Think of it- out of all the mugs and bowls you've seen, how
many have you purchased because they were the ideal form? The answer for you
and me is: all of them. How many do you own? I have maybe seven in all, most
of which I have owned for ten years or more. That is not going to support
many potters)

Of course, also realize that the discussions on this LSV lend themselves to
problem solving, so Clayart may provide a skewed vision of what is really up
there in all those mudheads.

I thouroughly agree with your ideal of a soup bowl. My Japanese bowl sloshes
the soup right out the side unless the bowl is filled with solids, which in
my food world, it usually is. What fun to talk about it!!!!

>From: Ray Aldridge
>Reply-To: Ceramic Arts Discussion List
>Subject: Ideal functional forms
>Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1999 09:16:56 EST
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>This is exactly the sort of discussion I'd hope to stimulate with ny post
>on mug handles.
>Marian says that her views on ideal forms are idiosyncratic and personal,
>and change from time to time, and I know what she means. But I have a
>strong hunch that these forms are to some extent universal. As Cardew said
>when talking about handles, pots vary widely in size, but the human hand
>hardly at all.
>I'm sure there's no such thing as the universally best soup bowl, or the
>universally best mug. But there may be forms that are best in the cultural
>context of most of us, for certain narrowly-defined purposes. I'd guess
>that potters who've been making pots for many years and using their own
>pots in the kitchen will gradually come to prefer certain shapes, and my
>guess is that these shapes are inherently superior to a shape derived from
>first principles, even if those priciples are heavily oriented toward
>function, but especially if those principles are primarily concerned with
>style and/or artistic content.
>Talking about individual serving bowls, my favorite shapes of all time are
>a little different from the bowl Marian describes below. That's possibly
>because I primarily serve hot soup in them. They rise at an angle from a
>small base to about half their height, and then rise almost vertically to
>the rim, which is thickened and turned out slightly. They stack well, with
>the lower half fitting into the upper half of the underneath bowl. The
>reason I like them better for soup than the bowl Marian describes is that
>the vertical sides of the bowl's upper wall contains liquids more securely
>than a bowl that flares continuously to the rim, an important consideration
>if you dip up the soup at the stove and carry it to the table in bowls, as
>I do most of the time. Now, for salad, if you're not a salad plate
>believer, a low bowl with a continuous flare is superior to the one I just
>described, because it presents the salad more beautifully and accessibly.
>Anyway, I think these are ideas vastly more important (and crucial to the
>success of functional potters) than discussions of glazes and bodies and
>firing. And yet, they're the ideas that seem to get the least attention.
>It makes me wonder if a lot of functional potters in their hearts believe
>that what they are making is essentially decorative. This is a weakness in
>a functional potter, in my opinion. It may be that most customers use these
>wares in a primarily decorative sense, but a pot that's a pleasure to use,
>as well as a pleasure to see, is a much more profound accomplishment than
>any purely decorative object.
>Let me hasten to add that I'm not attempting to stir up another endless
>round of functional vs. whatever blather. I'm just talking about pots
>which are ostensibly functional.
>At 03:52 PM 12/6/99 EST, Marian Morris wrote:
> >----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> >Regarding ideal forms. I have ideals for the things I use, and they
> >from time to time, so maybe there are ideals for particular times,
> >circumstances. Take bowls. I am 52, and have been through several
> >of the ideal bowlin my life, but met the ultimate in Japan in the common
> >soup bowl which can be found in any supermarket there. It flares out
> >45 degrees (maybe) with non-curved sides from a 2 /12 inch flat floor.
> >Stands maybe 4" tall. Utterly functional, the starchy stuff (rice or
> >noodles) sits in the narrower bottom, and the widely flaring top leaves
> >for you to pile up accompaniments around the edges of the starchy stuff.
> >foot is a rim about 1/2" deep standing straight up, which allows you to
> >stack the bowls upside down right out of the dishpan, and the foot
> >the bowl about 1/2" from the next one, so that they dry themselves, and
> >stack with only 1/2" clearance. The typical Japanese kitchen has only
> >drying space, and the storage is where you dry them, above the sink. So
> >space, and ergonomically efficient (unlike us where we dry them and then
> >move them to storage). I worked on this form, and took it one step
> >by rounding the bottom just slightly to accomodate our spoon (not used in
> >Japan in favor of more practical slurping of liquid contents). Now the
> >is used for most of my meals, including morning cereal, salad at lunch
> >rice or pasta at dinner. It is a joy to have in the hand, under the fork
> >spoon, and in the washing.
> >
> >Same for the little thummy place on mugs. Love it, and have recently
> >that the tall, latte kind of cups are my favorites, as I now start the
> >with two of those big things full of green tea. There is something
> >about the balance of a tall slender mug in the hand, with a nice place to
> >rest the thumb and use it to move the mug about. Don't know how I ever
> >without it before.
> >
> >These ideal are idiosyncratic to me, but give me daily joy in the use.
> >
> >
> >>From: Ray Aldridge
> >>Reply-To: Ceramic Arts Discussion List
> >>Subject: Mug handle death match
> >>Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 15:18:30 EST
> >>
> >>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> >>How many Clayarters make mug handles with thumbstops? I began to wonder
> >>about this after an old customer (the kind that calls you up every year
> >>asks if you've made any good pots lately) bought several mugs from me
> >>then asked me why I didn't put thumbstops on my mugs anymore. "My
> >>mug's got one of those doohickeys," she said. Then someone on Clayart
> >>thinking Tom Wirt, maybe) said something about the undeniable
> >>of mug handles with stops.
> >>
> >>I've gone through alternating phases, mostly leaving the stop off my
> >>but sometimes putting it on. One or the other is bound to be superior.
> >>Visually, I like the uncluttered look of a simple pulled handle. If
> >>well-done, I think it can't be beat, esthetically, and it functions
> >>well too. But I think it's also undeniably true that when you're
>lifting a
> >>mug full of liquid, a thumbstop helps to lighten the perceived weight of
> >>the mug. For folks with arthritis, this might be decisive.
> >>
> >>Anyway, to get to the point of this, I've set up another poll to
> >>opinion on this subject:
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>If you get a moment and you have an opinion, drop by, please. After the
> >>poll's been running for a while, I'll report back to the list.
> >>
> >>It's my opinion that there's an optimum form for every function, and
> >>the closer we get to that optimum form, the more our pots will be used.
> >>I'm going to explore this idea in the new millenium, and I'll try to
> >>approach it in ways that make my results more than just my unsupported
> >>opinion. I should add that just because I believe this, that does not
> >>automatically mark me as the AntiChrist. And I'm not a disciple of the
> >>Demon Bauhaus either. Ornament is good.
> >>
> >>Thanks,
> >>
> >>Ray
> >>
> >>
> >>Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware
> >>
> >
> >
> >Marian, breathing clean but cold air in Northern Michigan.
> >
> >______________________________________________________
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>Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware

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