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rr handles (was: bed fantasies of the tone-ster)

updated fri 31 aug 01


Janet Kaiser on fri 31 aug 01

You were not the only one, Ron. Several clay buddies
wrote me off-list asking what did I mean and one
(non-maker) said "what a great idea", going on to
speculate how the public would react and interact with
potters making their own handles.

The thing is, that not only are hands all different,
but the way we hold vessels with handles, use them,
etc. varies from person to person. The pots are also a
factor because of balance, weight, etc. The maker also
adds a handle for different purposes: functional and/or
decorative. There are so many variables, that "the
perfect handle" is probably as elusive as the "perfect
pot" unless it is actually tailor-made.

I share your opinion: if the handle needs to be used,
the design is paramount. But, there is no way a handle
will fit every user's hand or technique. A standard
handle is not going to work, or rather it will be
perfect for one person and useless for the next.

When I mentioned the comparison with custom made shoes,
I was thinking there are not only the different sizes
(length and breadth) but the fitting, which includes
foot height, instep, heel, ankle, etc. We are used to
squashing our feet into shoes which have been "normed"
but we still cannot wear any old shoe comfortably, even
if the size and fitting is correct. And that is on
feet, which are not manipulating objects in the way
hands do.

I know several people (young and old) who have physical
disabilities and use specially made/manufactured
ergonomic kitchen implements and vessels, including
mugs. What strikes one most, is the angle and the bulk
of such handles... Quite different to anything usually
made by potters. The way they are used is also
different... For example, amount of strength needed to
lift a mug is much less than on a conventional mug and
the angle the hand is held "flatter"... Like a clenched
fist facing your face, with the inside of the wrist
upwards. Aesthetically some of these designs could be
called "ugly", but where the function is the primary
concern, is conventional beauty important?

Weight is also a major factor... Many people will
reject a vessel because it is far too heavy. They have
difficulty lifting it empty and know they will probably
be unable to use it when full of liquid. Even if one
can lift a heavy jug, mug or pot, the amount of
strength needed to tip it to the correct angle is
sometimes too much, because the balance is all wrong.
We have all made jugs which need the second hand to tip
and I know of some which need brute force! Clamping a
tall, heavy jug to the body under an arm before it will
tip enough to empty is not a good functional design
even if it looks wonderful.

That other post >>Then theres the kind of handle that
you can't even put one finger through so that it forces
your pinkie up in the air. I think the Brits invented
this.<< is naturally a load of nonsense.

Firstly small handles on dainty manufactured ware were
introduced and used in the Age of Gentility... People
generally had smaller hands or it was assumed that real
Ladies and Gentleman had small hands (and feet) and the
cups were half the size of those we make and use today.
We also may be a lot of monkeys in the UK, but using a
foot to drink tea is not one of our predilection... (a
pinkie being a little toe :-) The affectation of
hoisting the little finger in the air was a fashion,
with little to do with the function or design of the
handle. I have yet to see a functional cup which "you
can't even put one finger through"... Unless those lugs
which were fashionable at one time are meant here? They
were the product of design school graduates who wanted
to reinvent the wheel at a time when the manufacturers
where suffering from decline. Form taking precedence
over function. Never a good idea.

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570

> Janet's comment got me thinking again - bout handles
and how they are at
> the heart of design and function.