I became interested in pottery when friend and potter Marion Menapace said making pots was a peaceful time that made her feel closer to the earth. Visiting Jugtown and master potter Ben Owen in NC (who was influenced by Bernard Leach) amplified that interest in functional oriental-type pots.
In Morgantown, WV I built a kick wheel and a gas-fired kiln made from a 55-gallon drum and took lessons from Ami, a Japanese potter who threw off the hump. She thought my kiln looked like a gullotine! The first 10 firings were complete disasters, and although we have some treasured pots, the number of rejects remained so high I couldn’t afford to continue.
In 1990 I brought my wheel and WV clay to NJ, but did not pot. Five years after retirement in 2005 I had access to a kiln and began potting again. Talking with potters at spring 2013 Mountainside show led to joining NJPG, putting an electric kiln in the basement and making pots to sell. I single-fire my pots, in large part because I think that is the way pots were originally glazed.
So, in sum, I throw off-the-hump on a homemade kick wheel making single-fire functional stoneware mixing glazes I like from recipes tested for durability and leaching.
Pottery made by individual potters is an ancient industry making art objects used in cooking, eating and storing food. Each pot is unique with an intimacy that is not possible in commercial products. Opening each kiln is an adventure because the results are unpredictable. The form of each pot is unique and known, but the final colors and patterns is unpredictable, seemingly random. I use mixtures of glazes of variable thickness so every pot will have unpredictables. Part of the excitement and adventure is the possibility a truly beautiful pot will appear.
And what is a good pot? It starts with a comfortable, useable shape and weight. Each of us have our own preference about colors, and each of us and abstract patterns. I apply mixtures of different glazes, often via spattering, to produce unpredictable patterns that are discovered individually from our own perspective. I like the oriental outlook that some so-called errors may leave a mark that adds character and enhances beauty. Some glaze combinations may form pictographs where you have told me you see a giraffe, lion, hooded figure, valentine, etc. My pots are also unpredictable in the sense of being imperfect. I am an imperfect craftsman using non-reproducible methods so “errors” or “mistakes” (such as variable thicknesses in the glaze) are always found. I like the resultant unpredictability and infinite variations and the potential production of an exceptional pattern and pot. I hope you find an unpredictable beauty in your favorite pot(s).