Just as I mentioned last week, I do want to discuss this professional production project I am in the midst of a bit more. Producing multiples that all fit the same product description (form, height, width, depth, etc.) and still allowing them to retain their own unique character can be tricky. It is certainly a challenge to make every bowl, mug, and plate the same diameter, on both the foot and the lip, and even before I sat down to throw, I had to have an idea of what forms I’d be stuck with ad nauseam for the next few weeks – in other words, I had to design my line.
One aspect of designing a line of pottery has been especially helpful during this process – knowing that I can decide on things like surface designs and color at a later time. It is certainly important to visualize the end products in order to approach the work successfully, and make preliminary choices such as what clay body will suit a gamut of glazes best, but in functional ware, there is no way around working one step at a time. First comes the form, second is handling the surface, and third is color and texture of the glaze. Furthermore, in production, everything is streamlined. When I said my professor “blew the whistle,” I meant it, and we have a strict deadline for when the “[stop] whistle,” will blow again.
I selected a white stoneware clay body for my functional ware. Many professional production potters choose white clay bodies like white stonewares and porcelains because they have a lower iron content, and sometimes no iron at all. This allows the artist to create work with brilliant colors and sometimes more delicate, elegant forms. I’ve worked with both white stonewares and porcelain before, but it can be difficult to switch from one clay body to the next, especially when one is a dark red clay with lots of grog and the other is a smooth white body, with little to no grog. In switching clay bodies, I also have to be wary of cross contamination (I don’t want rogue iron muddying my pure, white clay), but being able to oscillate between bodies will add to my versatility.
Now, the line. I’ve decided to make near five forms this time in small quantities for variety – stemless wine glasses, plates, juicers for citrus fruits, napkin rings, and sugar bowls – and here’s where the dimensions become important. Professional potters often use tools that act as pointers to ensure all the pieces are thrown with the same diameter. I expressed my interest at trying one out to the Art Technician in the Insalaco Center for Studio Art, Tim Clauss, and he bent over backwards (in true Marywood faculty form). He didn’t build a single pointer, but this master guide.
The many “hands” swivel on the upright rod, their holsters can be adjusted to differing heights, and they can slide through them to change their length. Not only will this allow me to make pots of the same diameter, but pots with bellies, shoulders, necks, and lips all at the same height and diameter. I do need a little more practice with it. It is very tall and can be cumbersome at times, so I feel as though I need to make some alterations to my throwing positions, but I know it will be absolutely indispensable with practice.
And as I said last week, I’ve managed to make about half of the forms I am investigating. I have all of the juicers and stemless wine glasses sitting dry on my studio shelves, as well as plates mere moments from completion. I have loved seeing the wooden palettes fill steadily within the past week, and it has made me feel as though I really can accomplish what I am setting out to do professionally. I can hardly contain my excitement for when we will put the cone in the kiln and shut the door.
My efforts have slightly wavered this week in production; it is the time of year when preparations for our annual Zeta Omicron, Kappa Pi (Art Honor Society) Empty Bowl benefit sale are underway, so there is much throwing and trimming to be done for multiple production projects, but is still thrilling to be in the studio as much as I can watching the work amass.
Until next week! In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my nose to the grindstone… and to the wheel.