search  current discussion  categories  tools & equipment - misc 

(long) tools, and the future embrace

updated sat 15 may 04


wayneinkeywest on fri 14 may 04

There is despair in clay town.
There is joy in clay town.
There is consternation, anger,
sometimes even condemnation.

All over tools.

There are those who would prefer
potters use only tools available back in Leach's
day, or Hamada's, or earlier.

There are those who believe that skill
is more important than tooling...
that one can have the best tools and
still turn out crap.

Others believe that having the best, most modern
tools will make them better potters, and for some
this is proven true.

There are also those for whom it would not be
possible to be a potter were certain tools not available
to them...electric wheels, hand controls, giffin grips
pug mills, bat grabbers, the list goes on.

What did the "elders" say when electric wheels were
first introduced? Probably something like "It will never work"
"I'll never give up my kick/treadle/stick wheel"

Like people first said of the auto "get a horse", "It will
never catch on".

And time marches on.........

I fervently embrace technology. I truly believe that I was born
400 years too early. Star Trek Next Generation is just about
where I feel I belong. And I am probably in the minority. Too
many of us struggle to get through our present, and never look
up to see what's coming. and that's ok too, if it works for them.

I buy every new gizmo that I can. Some
because it makes it easier for me to be a potter, like the giffin;
others because it makes it _possible_ to be a better potter, like
Phil Poburka's and Chris Henley's tools; and some tools I buy
because it makes it physically possible for me to do things I
otherwise could not, like my electric wheel, my pug mill.

And I am grateful as hell for each of them, for what they bring
to me in terms of what i can now do, and my work reflects that.

But while I embrace technology, and look forward to each and
every advance with curiosity and excitement, I still go back and
try to do things as they were done before the tools were available.

Why bother?
For the same reason that I keep an old stove top percolator in my
kitchen cabinet, right near the dual carafe Krups coffeemaker...
because technology can and does fail. While it is ok to embrace
the advances that come our way, while it is ok to make use of
every tool available to make your work easier, or better; or faster,
one still needs the skills that come from doing it by hand,
from repetition, from the knowledge that our predecessors
passed on to us. And we add what we discover to that sum of
knowledge (like the dangers of lead and manganese) and we pass
it on to those who follow, through our books, our workshops, our
gatherings around a kiln.

Would I ever wedge clay by hand again? Probably not, but I can
because I took the time to learn, to know how. Trim without a
Probably not, because it's there and will last longer than I will;
but I can because I know how to center work in a chum, in a chuck,
and how to tap center.
(Thank you for that Mel, we all learned more than you know at that
workshop at Lisa's)

Embrace your tools, use them to make yourselves productive,
to keep yourselves healthy and happy.

But don't forget to learn the skills you need along the way. And
_those_ tools (skills) sharp too.

Wayne Seidl
Key West, Florida, USA
North America, Terra
Latitude 81.8, Longitude 24.4
Elevation 3.1 feet (1m)