The 500 Larks
The series of Lark published books on ceramics, and a half-dozen or so other subjects in applied arts, has reached a zenith, or is it nadir, with the latest, most recent publication, Best of 500, Ceramics : Celebrating a Decade in Clay. The cover blurb states: ‘The world’s foremost anthology of contemporary ceramics presents a time capsule of the finest functional and sculptural work over the past ten years. Juried by top ceramicists and enlivened by expert commentary from leading artists, collectors, curators and gallery owners, this book proves an inspiring and thought provoking collection.’
This assemblage claims to be the selection of the best from the earlier books in the ceramics series – 500 Teapots, 500 Cups, 500 Chargers and Platters, 500 Bowls, 500 Figures, 500 Sculptures, 500 Pitchers, 500 Animals, 500 Vases… in clay. There were probably challenges in finding more sub-divisions so a compilation extracted from all was the next step.
Declaration of interest here: I was asked by the managing editor, to write 400 words on the state of clay as I saw it. Did that, and now find it at the front of the book with every possibly positive thing I wrote IN LARGE LETTERS. Along with me are a number of others who also have the positive bits of their texts WRIT LARGE. It’s that sort of book – find the good news all the way. Keep anything else small.
The 500 images included have been chosen by some 64 jurors. Yes that’s right – sixty four. And what a surprise…. each juror who is also an artist included a work of their own in the 500 compilation. The images are a mixed bag, clearly supplied by the artists because of the different styles and backgrounds but all of good publishable photographic quality. However, because of the range of work included – platters and chargers, vases, teapots, sculpture, animals, bowls, figures and cups, making some sense of sequencing clearly proved difficult and grouping for the various approaches was not attempted. Probably wisely, but the book lacks structure because no alternative was presented.
Here and there can be found some text accompanying a particular image, occasionally written by the maker or possibly written by that juror, and always positive, but other than that, there is no informative text of any kind. So, for those who just like looking at the pictures – this is the book for you. For those who like a little meat alongside all that syrup – cast your eyes further down the menu. There are so many books out there. Being in the USA right now I am able to look occasionally and there are more than I could have imagined – seems to be at least a half dozen for every attitude/genre/expression/ process/dispute/topic imaginable in ceramics.
You’ll be interested to see that there are two representatives from New Zealand included. Peter Collis and Rick Rudd, who also served as NZ Juror. **********************************************************************************
About to be published: Tanya Harrod’s long awaited biography about Michael Cardew.
Harrod is a fine scholar, one of the best in our field, who has been researching this for a number of years. She tells me that it must be at least ten, maybe more. Cardew was a hero for many, not least Harrod and Garth Clark (who was working on one of his own but ceased once Harrod’s was known of) but also our own Peter Stichbury who worked with Cardew in Nigeria and who hosted Cardew at his home in Manurewa on two occasions. Peter and Diane, always generous, shared the visit with others and I was lucky enough to be included on that second visit, and remember it well.
The book is called “The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, modern pots, colonialism and counter culture”. It is published by Yale University Press and will be available very soon on any number of internet sites or your nearest friendly art book supplier (if you can find one). It will be a fascinating read to learn of practices that Harrod could not support (like turning some African expression into stoneware with orientalised forms) made by a man who almost all admired enormously. As Harrod states, ‘Michael has taken me on a wonderful journey, both intellectually as well as geographically.’
Keep eyes peeled for this one. I have searches in place for a copy and will post as soon as……