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handmade and jk's last word

updated sat 20 may 00


Janet Kaiser on thu 18 may 00

Just another slight twist to this thread, whilst carefully (I hope)
pussy-footing around the hand vs. moldmade debate, because I do not want to
get any more involved in the personal knee-jerking and tail kicking
currently taking place...

The trend in the UK is currently towards elegant, minimalist, simple designs
in fine stoneware and porcelain. Many of which actually look as though they
have been manufactured. They are so pure in form, thin walled, without any
or with only minimal decoration, white or self coloured - often in the
pastel colours of my youth like beige, green (Eau de Nil), blue, lemon.
Generally reminiscent of 1950s post-war manufactured modern, following
closely in the footsteps of Art Deco.

I suspect it is the influence of the ceramic industry on tutors and students
in colleges and universities. As sponsors, they set projects which are then
translated into mold made products for the mass market. Commerce has to
change all our homes every ten years, right down to the crockery on the
breakfast tables. It is therefore in their interest to have young (=
inexpensive) designers working on a "new look".

Starting with top-of-the-market, trend-setting ranges by leading UK and
European manufacturers, it gradually percolates down to catalogues and
Woolworths. New forms and styles must also appeal to the interior designers
who have tired of the over-stuffed settee fashions of the 1980s and early
90s. Just as all the colourful frills and flounces gave way to straight
earth-tone sacks. (Joyce, I know what you mean!)

Because progressively fewer skills are being taught (and therefore acquired)
in academic circles here, pure design is now the priority. Although learning
by doing is promoted to a certain extent, we have people graduating with
degrees in art and design and impressive portfolios, who can design on a PC
using CAD programmes (and even drawings on paper!) but could not actually
construct an egg cup, never mind throw or mold a 10 pint pitcher. I met a
jewellery graduate last year who could only solder!! She had sadly seen no
other techniques taught or even demonstrated in three years of "further
education" up to degree level.

Where do all these people go and what do they do? Many have to go abroad to
find work as designers. Others work as free-lance designers of factory ware.
Some then gradually realise they need more skills and have to turn to

The influence of their design courses (ceramic manufacture orientated) then
shines through... The result is often rather sterile and mundane work.
Designs which impose themselves on the material, not a happy marriage of the

What puzzles me, is why bother going through all the toil of learning
handmaking skills like throwing, if the resulting product looks as though it
came straight off a conveyor belt or out of a mold? I do not condemn, I
simply do not understand.

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art, Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales
Home of The International Potters Path
TEL: (01766) 523570
----- Original Message -----

> .
> Don,
> By your definitions, 95% of Clayarters are guilty of what you are accusing
> Jonathan of doing.
> The problem always comes down to: at what point is it hand made and not
> made?
> The traditional potter sitting in the dirt and using a puki to form the
> bottom of the pot and coils to
> extend it up is the 'true' potter by your definitions.Most of the
> are using wheels and not
> kick wheels but electrified wheels. The horror! At what point did that
> technique become sanctified
> by the craft priests?
> Using slabs? I hope you are rolling them out by hand, not using a slab
> roller to do the work, it's not honest
> if you do. Using an electric motor to roll the slabs??? That's blasphemy.
> Extruding your handles? Tisk, tisk, I'm afraid you will have to leave the
> show sir.
> And now to add insult to injury you are using a computer to fire your
> kilns. No skill involved there.
> Are we to have signs in the show saying 'No work in this show has been
> computer fired!"?
> The point here is there will always be new technologies affecting out
> And if that technology helps
> make my life easier and more productive then I'm all for it. There is a
> holier then thou attitude permeating this thread and
> I think this thread has passed the point of being personal and that is not
> what Clayart is all about. IMHO.