Large scale ceramic artwork amasses a greater kind of weight for me (yes, puns intended). While cups and plates and mugs and other smaller scale functional wares evoke a quiet kind of intimacy both in their creation and use, large scale works speak to us on a scale that is our own. Instead of impressing upon a piece of clay the size of the hand, the artist must physically embrace the work with his or her body, reaching around it from all sides to erect sturdy walls. Working large eliminates a certain fragility and a need to shrink down to a detailed level that often makes me feel anxious and tense. Instead of focusing on details that must be just so, broader and taller pieces are a bit more forgiving, providing a more psychologically agreeable space to work with, without the threat of a fatal slip of hand.
It’s true: bigger isn’t always better. I still love the quiet profundity in crafting a handmade mug and cradling a warm cup of tea served within it. On a more technical note, it is true that on a larger piece, “mistakes” and “flaws” often become more evident and more easily discerned by the naked eye, but I feel as though those “mistakes” and “flaws” make the piece one-of-a-kind regardless of the scale, giving it a character all its own and elevating it to a work of art. But in working large, there is freedom, a freedom from the fear and timidity often accompanied by contriving small, fragile objects. In the grand scheme, large scale work is just that – grand.
I have made some large scale work in previous years, and want to keep pursuing it. I feel as though it will only make me a stronger ceramist, certainly physically but also artistically, hopefully helping to enhance my skills further.
This time around, I chose to continue honing the method of construction I know best. I threw a large bowl for the base of the piece, and continued to build atop it by adding coils. These coils have been pressed through the studio extruder so they are perfectly uniform in width, which, once they have been added to the existing base, makes them easier to throw as the wheel spins. The photo below shows a coil being added by scoring and slipping the two surfaces that will come into contact with each other. After adding the coil, I smooth the boundary between base and coil to prevent the coil from breaking away once I begin to throw it.
The process continues until my ideal height and form is reached. Here are a few more photos of me working on this guy. (Thank you, AnnMarie Castelgrande, for some of the photos!)
The final steps were to do a bit of trimming of excess clay at the bottom, add a few coils where the belly meets the neck for handles, and to do a bit of free form slip trailing for a decorative touch.
And… Tah Dah! That’s it! This piece was inspired by one of my most favorite sculptors, Don Reitz, and although I built the piece differently than he would have, hopefully I’m on my way to making great art like him.
If you approach building large scale work differently, have any questions about my piece, or have thoughts on the aesthetics, or the pros and cons of large versus small scale (or anything at all), please leave a comment in the comments section!! Sharing only helps us grow, right? Looking forward to hearing from you, and thanks for the read!!