Watching ceramics

For those still fascinated with the romance of the wheel, the wonders of U-Tube allow comparisons and education in every possible direction.

Start with the legendary Isaac Button – last of the English country potters who could reputedly throw a ton of clay a day, 122 pots an hour and 1200 a day! (I recall in the ’80s being impressed by folk here who claimed a ton a month!) We have to remember that speed was essential because those country pots sold for peanuts being the disposables of the day. Anyway, Button’s economy of style and un-precious approach is matched by an elegance of movement that is a pleasure to watch – all done to strains of the ‘Dying Swan’ and with pipe clenched firmly between his teeth!

Then try a modern master – Takeshi Yasuda demonstrating in Denmark. Again an un-precious approach, throwing off the hump and altering after making the walls. And joining two pieces freshly thrown. Intelligent reactions to what is happening before his eyes – and in the thinnest porcelain! Nevertheless one gets the picture that he knows what will happen – experience, trial and error are part of the history here.

Then try Bernard Leach himself working on a thrown form (? already made by Marshall) where he completes the form and talks in that inimitable BL style. The throwing is very controlled, expert, but a will to make the clay do what he envisages as end result rather than work with what is happening, a la Yasuda. Decide for yourself what approach you prefer or suits your own way of throwing.

Finally here is something featuring some of the ‘big name’ Americans from the 50s although this was made later than that at some Mudfest gathering. It advertised Hamada, Voulkos, Soldner and Reitz and there they all are but the maker has become a tad carried away with ‘arty’ cutting and blending as well as some superfluous music. One ends up noting the art of the film-maker rather than the art of the artists being filmed. So this is really less a chance to compare throwing styles for the aficionado than a work in itself to contemplate. Still, you can smell the testosterone from this far!


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