Friday, July 11, 2014

Where will we go from here

In my bits of down time I've been perusing Pinterest and remembering the various trends and changes to pottery since I started in clay in the early 70's. At that time cone 9 was the preferred temperature and a reduction kiln was the dream of many of us just getting into clay. There wasn't much color in those days - lots of oatmeal and matt glazes, temmokus - probably the influence of the Leach era.  There were people like Betty Woodman, Ruth Duckworth and many others whose work went in a different and sometimes brazen direction for the time, but that wasn't was was seen at the majority of craft shows.

There were some great salt pots in those days from Karen Karnes, Don Reitz, and so many others. How many of us wished we had thought of the idea of those wonderful cut lids n Karen's jars, that made her pots so recognizable.

Remember Voulkos with those powerful platters with tears and holes? I always dreamed of owning one of those; but it was a dream unfulfilled; but I can still enjoy them from afar in well documented photos.

We had potters doing selfies, before they were called selfies - doing sculptures of themselves and doing it quite well.

Then cone 10 became the new ideal, and then wood firing caught on and everyone including myself was building wood kilns - lots more brown pots with few exceptions, like David Hendley who found a way to put vibrant color in his wood fired pieces. It seems for a while, and still true in many cases, that many were trying to mimic the historic, mingei and wabi feel of the tradition Anagama and Noborigama kilns of Japan. There were a lot of anagamas being built and a lot of brown crusty, pots in the 80's and 90's. At the same time we became conscious of what we were putting in the air, and all that black smoke coming out of those kilns made us consider an alternate choice for a wood kiln. I and others were building bourry box kilns in the early 80's in an attempt to have it both ways - wood fire pots without filling ours and other peoples lungs with too much of the bad stuff.

For a while temperatures were rising well beyond cone 10 and still may be.

There was also a big Raku trend in the 70's and 80's. There was the crystalline glazes trend with a lot of not very intriguing forms being covered with a glaze that held the hope it might bring an otherwise mediocre pot up to a higher level; but there were those who were also taking it to new heights with exciting forms to match the power of those glazes.

We saw clay being used to create lifelike pieces of luggage, and then there was the funk era with David Gilhooly leading the way with his amazing, outrageous and so funny pieces of frogs and beavers doing the most outrageous things in clay. Have you ever seen his erotica series of frogs making love inside a cheeseburger, and sliding off the melted cheese? It was one not to miss! The 70's were definitely fun.

Shinos were big in the 80's and are still a favorite with many of us potters; but often not so much for buyers. For some of the buying public it was more like shi - no. Temmokus often run into the same problem. Even black dogs are the last to be adopted. There's color prejudice every where it seems. Malcolm Davis made shinos very exciting with carbon trapping and his other discoveries, and opened the shino market up a bit more. People noticed.

We've been through so many style changes, some borrowed from other eras, like the duck bill pitchers and others and the newer, maybe not so new, boat forms, animated, dancing pots etc. etc. In the 90's and currently we've seen a big resurgence of majolica but in a newer, fresher presentation by many, slipware, both traditional and reaching for newer expressions. Raku grew, as all things must, from just shiny glazes that faded in time. And as the glazes in some cases, took a different, mellower, velvety road, the forms also grew.

We've had naked raku for a decade or more. There was salku and pit firings. People learned to wrap pots in silver foil along with some organic  materials and fire them in their electric kilns. I was doing some fun cone 10 saggar firings in the early 80's using jars that were made for industrial use and later sold in new age stores as crystal sounding bells. That was around the time I took as Paul Soldner, hands on workshop for low fired salt. I didn't stay with those too long, although I loved the look - just hated having to tell people that the pots shouldn't be put in a humid environment, like a kitchen or bathroom - usage just too limited for what I wanted to be functional work.

In the 90's soda firing and salt firing were very much in view and continue till today. The salt pots were not the pots of earlier eras with the look of brown sewer tile. Flashing slips and directional deposits of soda, gave a new look to the work. I joined the soda fire group, first converting my ancient Geil gas kiln in the early 90's and later went to a cross draft hard brick kiln. Health issues necessitated a move cross country and a huge lifestyle change, otherwise I'd still be solely, making that work. I love it.

With energy costs skyrocketing and communities putting more and more restrictions on wood and gas kilns, we've seen the firing temperatures lower and electric firing become the majority, I would say, of hobby and other work being produced now. Ceramic companies saw the trend and started selling some interesting glazes for cone 6 oxidation. People experimented with slow cooling, firing down techniques and overlapping glazes, using ash glazes, etc. to get more interest in those oxidation glazes. Spraying became a big trend and still is thanks to the efforts of Steven Hill, whose never ending exploration found a way to get the look of his cone 10 reduction glazes to work at cone 6 oxidation. Many professionals who previously worked in cone 10 reduction, switched to cone 6 reduction and oxidation. Many soda firers are now working in cone 6 and I've done a lot of testing at this temperature and may switch one of these days after I get these cone 10 pots fired in my mini, converted, gas, soda kiln.

Earthenware too is ever evolving. Ron Meyers made us look at other possibilities. Animal figures rule lately with rats, goats, chickens, birds, cows, squirrels, possums and others showing up with regularity; and charming they are!

The past few years we've seen birds on everything. I have to admit I love them and have drawn a few and put a few on some lids. But when will they become a cliche? Or, maybe they already have and my liking of them is blinding me, but  happily so, to that fact.

Deconstruction became a word not only in the food world but in the world of pottery as well. Slicing and dicing, nips and tucks are well underway in recent years.

These are some of my memories and observations and I'm sure I've missed quite a few. Hopefully some of my readers will fill in some of those gaps when reflecting on their own memories.

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