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non - functional teapots

updated thu 30 mar 00


Bob Bruch on wed 29 mar 00

Sandra writes:
>>>>Is there a difference between functional and utilitarian? And...what is
it? Sandy

Ray responds:
>>>>>>>Well, it is. But the utilitarian object must accept some constraints
its originality because it must function. It can never be entirely free of
that constraint, and in this sense, its originality is limited to a gloss on
the basic idea of a covered container that pours.

JMHO, but the terms "utilitarian" and "functional" have very similar
meanings. The base of the word "utilitarian" is UTILITY. The base of
"functional" is FUNCTION. Utility derives from the French "utilite" -
usefulness or use. I fail to see a significant difference between the two,
unless one really wants to split hairs.

I believe that there are three basic categories of ceramic work:

1) Utilitarian or functional in which the PRIMARY FOCUS is on the function of
the work. That doesn't just mean that a teapot pours, but how it pours, and
how it feels to the pourer. I have some cups made by top notch utilitarian
potters that FEEL wonderful and they were made with that in mind. That does
not mean that the ceramic object cannot have other concerns, just that the
basic concern centered on the use of the object.

2) Vessels which are works based on traditional ceramic forms such as plates,
cups, bowls, urns, ewers, teapots, jars etc. The PRIMARY FOCUS of vessels is
not about function, although vessels can function and can even function quite
well. The creator is focused on something other than making the object
function well. The creator is trying to convey something about the particular
ceramic object and function takes second place to the idea.

3) Sculpture is work in which the creator has a PRIMARY FOCUS of a concept
that transcends ideas about the teapot itself. A sculpture could be based on
a ceramic form, such as the work of Richard Notkin. But I think that
sculpture is work in which the political or social idea being expressed is
the basic focus of the artists endeavor.

Bob Bruch