Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honest Pots

 When I went to see the pottery show at the Greenhill Center in Greensboro I knew before I got there that it was going to be a mind fuck, and I was right. Don't get me wrong, there were some very nice pots there and I enjoyed looking at them all, but it totally screwed my head up for weeks. It took going to Seagrove this week to get my head back where it belongs. So much of the pottery that is being made right now is charming enough I suppose, but it makes me feel much the same way I feel when I go into a department store. There are racks and racks of clothes with so many dodahs on them you can't find the simple black t shirt you love to wear, or a good old pair of Levi's 501 jeans. Give me a classic form, simply adorned and honestly made. I like really cool sculpture and very artsy pots if the art is good, like my friend Laura, but for the most part, if there is a bunch of decoration on the pot, I can't see the form, and that is the thing I love. The form of a well made pot. That's not what I make of course, I wish it was, but for some reason I feel compelled right now to make these barns and houses. I did fall madly in love with the grave marker in the above photo, and if I did start to think about making pots for real on the wheel again, this might be something that I would like to make. Of course there is a huge demand for clay grave markers these days...... but I had a hard time pulling myself away from this piece. I bought a book about them, I'll try to post more about this later.
 As I walked around the NC Pottery Center, my mind started to calm down, my shoulders were a little less tight and I felt a sigh come from my entire body. What is it about the simple pottery of Seagrove that has this effect on me? It always has, there is some sort of magic for me there that I don't get from any other pottery.
 There are so many beautiful pieces in this show. I didn't take nearly enough photos and I apologize for the pottery I left out, there isn't a bad piece to be seen here. I saw one of Tom Gray's platters on display(not in the show itself, but in another part of the center) and it reminded me again of when I was at the Greenhill show. Among all the glitz and glitter, his very simple but impeccably made platter was one of the things that stood out in my mind. It didn't really fit with what seemed to be a theme of highly decorated pottery, but it was honest and well crafted and obviously made by a potter that had been at it for a long time and knew his craft.
 Another potter that knows his craft, and in my opinion makes some of the very finest pottery anywhere is Matt Jones. There were several pieces of his in the show and they are exquisite. His form and decoration are spot on.
 Simple, elegant, beautiful........
 This little setting made my heart go pitter patter and the plates were warped, love that! So humble and yet somehow elegant in their simplicity.

More honest pots at Whynot. Look at the glaze on this thing!

Living here in Chapel Hill, I am exposed to a different type of pottery. A few years ago, I became a pottery snob and thought the pots down in Seagrove were simple and plain and boring. Long before I moved to Chapel Hill, Seagrove was a little piece of heaven in my mind. I don't know what caused me to drift away from the pots I loved from my childhood. Perhaps it was the gallery and artist persuasion that goes on around here, you are told who is "a big artist" and who is making the "collectible work" and the shows in the galleries keep featuring the same things and you forget the lineage of pottery in North Carolina because you are too busy falling over all of the stuff certain people tell you to like ( as a friend of mine so clearly pointed out recently).  I love pottery, most all of it. There is a gigantic variety of pottery in this state and many many wonderful potters. Too many to mention. But the pottery I love the very most is the pottery that I started touching as a child. The pots in my grandmother's house that she bought at Jugtown and Cole Pottery. I have those pots now, they are plain and simple, made by plain and simple folks that worked hard and made an honest living. The old Seagrove pottery is what nourishes my soul and that's why I keep going back down there......


Dennis Allen said...

I might just steal this for my artist statement.

Tracey Broome said...

I think you should!! You make honest pots :)

Anonymous said...

you've got me thinking about clay.

cookingwithgas said...

TB- good thoughts and many that I have thought about myself.
I do love those old pots- there is something about them.
Great pictures you took. I took so few since I was busy talking Susan's ears off.

Susan Wells said...

It seems it's hard to make a dishonest pot unless you are a machine. Pots made by human beings, luckily, tell the truth. Truths that not everyone can hear. But they are there! Mwaha! That's why it's our job to make our own truths out of clay that speak what we want others to hear. Yay! And Meredith, my ears are pleasantly still attached!

Lori Buff said...

I could probably write a post in response, I still may but for now I'll just try to make a relitively intelligent comment.
Most potters love form that's why clay is our canvas. But many people also want to do something different and unique, which is really challenging with a 10 billion year old art form, thus the surface decoration. Sometimes I think this decoration really distracts the eye from the beauty of the form, but I suspect the mind still sees and registers the form.

Tracey Broome said...

So right that everyone (most everyone) tells their own truth with their pottery. I think there are some folks that speak only to the cash God though, trying to make what they see people wanting to buy from others!
I myself, use a clay form as a canvas and I think the decorated pots can be fantastic and the clay is just a canvas for what the artist wants to say. I'm not saying these are bad pots, and I do enjoy them, it's just that a gallery filled with a massive quantity of decorated pottery is hard to look at. A gallery filled with beautiful forms, however, is restful and pleasant.... for me anyway.

Michèle Hastings said...

I read your post last night while I was cooking dinner. Jeff came in and we had a conversation about the simple, traditional NC pots vs highly decorated pottery.
I enjoy both, for the most part. There are some simple pots that don't do a thing for me and the same with some surface deco.
In the end I compared the two types of pottery to macaroni & cheese... Last night I was a making a very decadent mac & cheese with gruyere, fontina, cheddar, and mascarpone. The recipe also included sauteed leeks and garlic. It was rich, delicious, and we loved it.
My Mom makes a very simple mac & cheese... and it probably is mostly american cheese (and maybe even velveeta!), and I doubt she has ever even bought a leek in her life. When I visit her and she makes it, it's comforting and soothing. Simple and yummy... true comfort food.

I enjoy both for different reasons. Just like the pots.

... okay, so maybe I had a little too much wine while cooking dinner :-)

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Michele, I hear ya! To each his own. I would probably eat dog food if it was mixed with mac and cheese, I like all of it, same with pottery- I like it all.
It's just that I can look at simple pots a lot longer than I can a room full of really decorated work. Like mac and cheese, I could eat the simple version for three meals a day, but the dressed up version gives me heartburn, haha! Great analogy, thanks!!