Saturday, October 29, 2016

I Broke A Pot

During a glazing demonstration this week I broke a pot. It simply slipped out of my hands and smashed on the floor.

I really wanted to "quote" an image from Ai Wei Wei here, but I felt too conflicted about copyright and ownership to pull an image from another source, so I quoted a video.You all know these photos are by Ai Wei Wei anyway, right?

The pot I was demonstrating with was an old friend, one I have used as an example at least twice per quarter every quarter I've taught at YVC since 2006. I figure I've shown students this pitcher and told them about its features 60 times at least.

the pot is broken

This pitcher was so perfect. It was so bad, and in so many ways. It was heavy and large and awkward, and best of all not made by anyone I knew, so whenever I talked about its shortcomings, I wasn't criticizing a real person. Not only was it perfectly bad, it was a pretty good bad pot. It was large and its walls were even, and its handle was strongly attached. It survived more than 10 years without any cracks or chips. Until this week.

I have no picture. You'll have to imagine it.

I am so sad that I broke this pot and I won't be able to pick on it in class ever again. I don't even have a photo of this piece. But, I do have video! I recorded a whole bunch of demonstrations this summer for my clay classes. The video in which I discuss handles includes this amazing pitcher to illustrate how not to fit your handle size to your pitcher.

You can see the pot in question starting at 3:32.

This pitcher's handle was too large, forcing the hand far away from the weight of the pot and it had a skinny part that make the handle look weaker than it was. But, unusually for a bad pot, the handle was well attached to the body of the pitcher. After I smashed it into roughly 20 pieces, I noticed that the handle had broken in the middle, and the pot had broken, but the handle had not broken away from the the pot.

this artist's rendering of the most important qualities of this ex-pot

Besides having this ridiculous handle that strained the wrist and caused the heavy pot to tip forward, this pot also had a badly made spout and it was glazed badly. I was using it in the glaze demonstration because of the latter issue. Much of the glaze was applied too thin, leaving the interior and bottom half of the pitcher rough and brown. The glaze that was applied more thickly was dribbled down and across the side of the pitcher. I always use this pot as an example of what happens if you tip the pot up before the glaze is dry. The glaze will not just run down the pot, it will run sideways while the pot is being tipped through 180 degrees.

Why aren't there gifs of pottery breaking and pottery falling on the wheel? I'm going to have to learn how to make gifs.

The fascinating thing is, though I've made fun of this pot for years, it isn't a pot I can easily replicate. For those of us who have been throwing pots for some time, it is difficult to throw badly. But it is also  tough for a beginner to throw this large. Someone who knows how to pull handles, will naturally pull a more even handle, but someone who doesn't know how to pull handles will have trouble pulling such a large handle. This pitcher was a fascinating intersection between developed throwing skills and underdeveloped knowledge of form. I will miss this pot. I'm thinking of offering extra credit to anyone who can make me a replica that recreates the size, quality, and lack of quality of this amazing ex-pitcher.

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