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About The Studio Potter

Founded in 1972, The Studio Potter is an independent journal of ceramics, published twice a year in January and July. Each issue is organized around a theme, broadly stated so as to accommodate a range of perspectives, and featuring original and striking design. Recent themes have included: Clay and Words, Money, Sustenance, and with this issue Generation.

Originally launched by a group of New Hampshire potters, early issues of the journal were dedicated to the experiences and concerns of working potters, an alternative to gallery-centered and how-to publications. SP has long since expanded its editorial reach to encompass aesthetics, ceramic history, and 0

philosophical arguments, but it remains grounded in the studio and in what is on the minds of all who choose clay as their primary medium. We encourage lively, thoughtful writing from across the spectrum of contemporary ceramics, and are committed to the elegant integration of visual and written content.

The following pages offer a digital sample of the current issue, with additional out-take images and color images not included in the print version. The digital sample is a complement to the complete 96-page issue which is available in print only. The Studio Potter Support Pages, formerly a supplement featuring our underwriters, is also included here. For more information about The Studio Potter, or to join, visit


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Mary Barringer Elenor Wilson ART DIRECTOR Rostislav Eismont EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Donna McGee PRODUCTION Jeani Eismont CIRCULATION Elizabeth Webber COPYEDITORS Faye Wolfe, Paula Consolo PROOFREADERS Karin Rothwell, J Doster FOUNDING EDITOR Gerry Williams EDITOR



PO Box 257 Shelburne Falls, MA 01370 Phone: 413-625-9200 SUBSCRIPTIONS

PO Box 352 Manchester, NH 03105 Phone: 603 -778 - 8217 PRE-PRESS PRODUCTION

Eismont Design 50 Monadnock Highway North Swanzey, NH 03431 603 -283 - 0027 PRINTING

Penmor Lithographers PO Box 2003 Lewiston, ME 04241-2003 INDEXING

is indexed by Ebsco Art and Architecture Index ( For a listing of past articles, see


Vol.42 No.1 (ISSN 0091-6641). Copyright 2014 by THE STUDIO POTTER. Contents may not be reproduced without permission of THE STUDIO POTTER. Contact the editor. THE STUDIO POTTER is published in January as the Winter/Spring issue and in July as the Summer/Fall issue. Submissions welcome. Membership: One year US: $70.00 Canada: $85.00 (US) International: $90.00 (US) Student: $35.00 with proof of enrollment Back issues are available. Postage paid at Manchester, NH. Please send address changes to PO Box 352, Manchester, NH 03105.

Speaking of generations, this issue features several, from Erik Gronborg, a grand and mischievous artist in his eighties, to young makers in their twenties; several of the articles, moreover, pointedly compare attitudes and circumstances as they have changed over the past forty or fifty years. Overall this suggests a turning of the generational wheel – a moment made more poignant by the passing of those whose work, teaching, and lives have shaped our ideas. Two important figures, Angela Fina and Val Cushing, are remembered in this issue, and we also sadly note the deaths of artist Kirk Mangus and Ontario potter and SP contributor Jackie Seaton. We offer our condolences to their families, and to the communities of makers and students who will keenly feel their loss. In a more detached way, this generational shift is getting the attention of scholars and researchers. Many of our readers know Sequoia Miller as a maker and SP contributor (“Sequoia and Isaac” from 38/1), but he has lately traded in his trimming tools for a library carrel, and brings both his studio experience and research skills to thinking about the changing context of studio pottery. We are pleased to be able to present his talk from this year’s American Pottery Festival, and grateful to Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis for making it available to us. And we are excited to present the lecture in two formats: readers can also hear the audio recording of it on the NCC website, Also, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) just released their “state of the field” research, giving another perspective on how things are going for independent makers in all media. The full report is available at: and_findings/cerf_research. Steven Heinemann’s piece had its genesis in an artist’s talk he gave at Lacoste Gallery in October, in which he touched on the generative role of process in his work. Two articles here were originally presented as lectures: the evolving use of digital tools by studio artists was the topic of Del Harrow and Andy Brayman’s talk at the International Academy of Ceramics symposium in Santa Fe in September of 2012, and Garth Johnson’s lecture on Erik Gronborg was presented during a retrospective of the artist’s work at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Crafts last summer. Preserved in print, where they can be revisited over time and juxtaposed with other writings, such ephemeral but important events thus acquire a permanent place in our collective conversation. is a non-profit organization which publishes journals, produces educational programs, and provides services to the international community of ceramic artists and craftspeople. A professional journal, THE STUDIO POTTER is published twice a year and focuses on critical issues of aesthetics, technology, history and personal development. It is aimed at a discerning readership of ceramists, educators, and others committed to supporting work and dialogue. By fostering innovation and creativity as well as respect for tradition, the organization endeavors to improve the quality of life and work for studio potters. STUDIO POTTER welcomes hearing from potters, artists, scholars and educators with special interests in writing and reporting on topics and events in ceramics. STUDIO POTTER BOARD OF DIRECTORS : Elizabeth Cohen, Carol Epp, Stephen Grimmer, Brian Jones, Jonathan Kaplan, Nancy Magnusson, David McBeth, Maureen Mills, Nick Sevigney. CONTRIBUTING ADVISORS : Linda Arbuckle, Constance Baugh, Michael Boylen, Cynthia Bringle, Louise Allison Cort, John Glick, Gary Hatcher, Diane Weldon Housken, Kristen Kieffer, Robbie Lobell, Paula Sibrack Marian, Mark Shapiro. STUDIO POTTER


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Spark+Time Like making a pot, making a print journal is a creative process. An idea snags the mind, generates other ideas, morphs or peters out - and so it goes. It’s neither possible nor desirable to see at the beginning where the thing is headed, and although time is necessary to the process, it is not linear time but stuttering, looping, spiraling time. Entwined in it are offshoots, dead ends, and unexpected fruits. Spark plus time plus chance lead finally to an object, born of its own moment but connected to those before and after it. Each issue of SP is a fixed collection of articles and images, bound and finished, but what happens when it meets the eyes and minds of readers cannot be predicted or contained. Far from the original seed, something completely unexpected may sprout. When I agreed in 2002 to take the helm at The Studio Potter, it was in part because I felt a generational imperative. I was thirty years into my studio career, flanked by those who had shown me the way and by the young makers coming up behind me. I felt able, and obligated, to reach out in both directions, a good place from which to operate. Ten-plus years on, I find myself at the young edge of the older generation, with the ranks above me sadly thinned and two distinct age-groups, with different experiences and ideas, clamoring for their own space. It is time to put The Studio Potter into the hands of someone with the outlook and the rising energies of those generations. I am confident that in Elenor Wilson we have found the right person to embody those perspectives and carry the journal forward. Elenor's first sense of studio life was formed as an assistant to John Glick. She went on to earn an MFA at SUNY New Paltz and spent three years in Taiwan, working in clay and teaching English. As an editorial intern at SP in 2008-9, Elenor demonstrated an avid interest in both the mission and the geeky details of what we do. She brings to the job two essential qualities that can't be taught: curiosity about the entire field of ceramics, and passion for the unique history and voice of The Studio Potter. It is with great optimism and confidence that I entrust to her the leadership and future of the journal. Unlike making a pot, making a journal is a process involving many people. From the intimate back-and-forth of working with authors to the unseen hundreds of readers, each issue is a collection of many people’s energies. It would be impossible to recount and thank them all, but certain people have been present and essential throughout every stage of every issue: Rosti Eismont, a brilliant designer whose eye and care have enlivened every reader’s experience of the journal; Jeani Eismont, who kept us inside the lines and moving along; and my partner J. Doster, the editor's editor, support-giver, and reality-checker. To them, and to Gerry who planted the seed, I owe thanks for the opportunity to represent my generation in the unfolding story of The Studio Potter. – MB


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4 In This Issue 5 Editorial 6 Iteration by Sean O’Connell

10 Building a Legacy by Reena Kashyap

15 Open Door Policy by Martina Lantin

18 Source Material by Jonathan Kaplan

24 The Power of Observation by Susan Crowell

26 Reflections on Legacy by James Watkins

30 Generations in Faenza by Patricia Hubbard-Ragetté

36 A Generational Undertaking by Sophia King

38 Catch and Release by Steven Heinemann

44 Making Bad Work by Jocelyn Howard

48 Throwing Off-Center with Mr. Strawn by Carol Kliger

52 Towards an Aesthetics of Digital Clay by Del Harrow and Andy Brayman

62 Finding a Place by Stacy Snyder

66 Worth More than a Glance by Sue Grier

70 Thinking about Contemporary Pots by Sequoia Miller

74 Field Report by Sunshine Cobb

78 Erik Gronborg: Pop Goes Materiality by Garth Johnson

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86 The Beginner by Daniel Harris

88 Remembering Angela Fina by Mary Barringer

90 Val Cushing: Teacher and Potter Reprint from Vol.31 No.2

93 Coming Up 94 Underwriters

Cover: James Watkins, Reflection Series, 2013. Porcelain tiles, multi-fired, with laser cut drawings, 12 x 24 in. Photograph by Denny Mingus. Inside Front Cover: Kirk Mangus, 1950 2013. Olive Face Jug, 2008. Terra cotta with engobes, 18 x 14 x 14 in. Frontispiece: Kirk Mangus, Dreaming Chuk. 2006. Ink on Chinese paper, 12 x 10.5 in. This page: Sue Grier, Sevens, 2008. Anagama wood-fired, stoneware, thrown, altered and assembled, 7 x 42 x 10 in.

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Iteration by Sean O’Connell

For a potter, repetition is routine. Making pots over and over again is how I come to understand them. However, it’s not without its tedious side, and it’s a challenge to balance between discovery and monotony. There are instances when they become indistinguishable and the only course is to change the way you think about working, rather than changing the way you work. In 2009 I encountered this difficulty when I was selected to make five hundred plates during a three-month residency at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Maine. These plates were to be displayed, sold, and used by patrons during the “Salad Days” fundraising event the following summer. Three months is just about enough time to make the plates but not much else. Some residents might insist on making “their own work” in addition to the overwhelming volume of plates. But I made the decision early on that I would use this opportunity to focus on a decorative vocabulary, thinking that this assignment (which I would never have assigned myself) could facilitate my research tremendously. I planned for each plate to be a test tile, and by adopting this method, I worked through an incredible amount of decorative information in that short period. This required me to suspend my expectation that I would have a physical product at the end of the residency. The salad plates would belong to Watershed, but the knowledge acquired through the process would be mine. Surface decoration had been a thematic interest of mine in grad school, but one that I stumbled over and muddled through in my thesis work, never

reaching a point of real satisfaction or resolution with the results. I had applied for the residency because I was suffering post-grad-school traumatic stress disorder (or PGSTSD) and needed a defined set of parameters for my studio work in order to avoid “analysis paralysis.” The residency seemed to fit the bill, and in the first weeks of making plates, my strategy developed. First I worked on the form of the plates, assessing their role (for my purposes) as canvases. It was a straightforward shape, somewhere between a plate and a shallow bowl, with a lobed rim and robust foot. Time constraints were a consideration, so only the interiors would receive decoration on a white slip background. The undersides were covered with a terra sigilatta made from the local clay for a tactilely pleasing but unfussy finish. My decoration would be restricted to techniques I was familiar with but wished to become more proficient in. This included resist techniques with shellac, pattern painting, and free-hand brushwork. I used underglazes and a single base glaze with oxide additions for my color and line work. The underglaze pigments were basically straight out of the bottle, which allowed an immediate application on greenware, with multiple layers of shellac resist to create the designs. The glaze was poured, dipped, or blobbed on to fill in patterns or to add an element of chance movement to the interiors. My work cycle evolved into what I thought was a slightly grueling but manageable system. I would throw forty plates on the first day, then trim them and apply slip and sigillata on the second day. The following three days were

Sean O’Connell is currently the 2013– 2014 Visiting Instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design. He was the 2009 “Salad Days” Artist-in-Residence at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts and recently completed a two-year residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Sean exhibits his work widely, conducts workshops, and lectures nationally.

1634 18th Ave. #6 NW Calgary, AB T2M 0X1 Canada


Salad Days Plates

Greenware, 2009. Earthenware. L E FT BOTTOM :

500 Plates, 2009.

Earthenware, slip, terra sigillatta, underglaze, glaze. 2.5 x 9 x 9.


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Snack Plate, 2013. Gray

marks and thin red stripes. Porcelain, underglaze, glaze. 1 x 7 x 7 in. BELOW:

Demitasse, 2013. Cup and

saucer with red stripes and gold dots. Porcelain, underglaze, glaze, lustre. 4 x 5 x 5 in.


for drying and decorating, adding up to about five days of working, with rest on the sixth and/or seventh day to keep up my morale. I repeated this cycle about fourteen times and made approximately 560 plates. The work cycle defined the nature of my decorative explorations. The surfaces for each group of forty plates were informed by the preceding group and had their own patterns and motifs, resulting in families of pots, related but distinct. I was able to achieve an incredible variety within the parameters I set for myself. At the outset, this decorative smorgasbord of influences was drawn from the historical pottery of Islam and Western Europe, including traditions as varied as sixteenth-century Italian Maiolica and the Iznik pottery of the Ottoman Turks.

I particularly loved the dynamic surfaces of Persian and Syrian fritware. I read texts on decorative history, such as Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament, and on decorative theory in E.H. Gombrich’s A Sense of Order. Textiles from Japan and Africa, Asian and Islamic calligraphy, Abstract Expressionist painting: everything I could digest was a potential source. In my studies, I was careful to observe the spatial relationships between density and movement, and pattern and texture. With all this material it was quite apparent to me that I had an inexhaustible well to draw from but needed to edit and reduce what would actually appear on the pots. I started by identifying specific elements in the historical sources I was attracted to. In some cases, it was the way a glaze would run across the surface of a pot and pull or streak the colors; sometimes it was the deliberate juxtaposition of patterns and layers on objects or the lyrical movement of an ink line over paper. As a result of my editing process, the quality of the visual information I included on each plate improved, and I was able to pinpoint how I wanted the surface to interact with the pot. I cycled through a huge volume of ornament to construct combinations of

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decorative motifs for each work cycle. At first these combinations referenced my influences directly, but then they became distillations of influences instead of derivations. What developed through these multiples was a decorative vocabulary I had always wanted to possess but had never made the time to realize. This process of making editions in multiples of forty, combined with the time constraints, condensed a year’s worth of research into a few months. It caused my work to move forward at a much faster pace, but the more interesting result is that now I think through my work in a much more nuanced way. And I have developed a sensibility that is based on cultivating self-expression within the context of utility. This experience continues to affect my studio practice in some very profound ways. I still work in series and use the results of permutations to inform the next cycle of work. At the conclusion of each work cycle, I step back and assess the completed pots in order to understand what is successful in each piece and what may still need tweaking. I rarely repeat previous decorative solutions exactly, instead preferring to alter them bit by bit until they more closely align with my aesthetic intentions. I continue to learn how I want decora-

tion to function on my pots. I think of decoration and form as analogous to languages, communication founded on the interaction of hand and eye. And as with any language, communication encompasses both incredibly abstract concepts and utilitarian necessities. In conventional forms, such as cups, bowls, and plates whose surfaces are decorated with pattern, there are an inherent approachability and familiarity in the work that users find comforting and beautiful. The indelibility of ceramic materials and the alchemy of firing give me the sense that decorating is not about clothing or covering the pot, but about extending the experience of utility into a visual dimension, one that imposes an ancillary sense of order to the object, and thus to the space around it.


Salad Days Plate # 515,

2009. Earthenware, slip, terra sigillatta, underglaze, glaze. 2.5 x 9 x 9 in. BELOW:

Oval Serving Dish, 2013.

Porcelain, underglaze, glaze. 5.5 x 12 x 7


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Iteration bonus outtake images


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TowardsAnAestheticsOfDigitalClay by Del Harrow and Andy Brayman

By now digital technology has affected studio practices for all of us. In this talk we’re not going to talk about marketing, branding, or digital images, which have all had significant ramifications for the ceramic artist’s studio practice. Instead, we’re focusing on digital information and technology as it is directly affecting the creation of ceramic forms and surfaces – what’s known as digital fabrication – and how that is beginning to operate in our studios. Over the last five or so years, Andy and I have spent a lot of time in conversations that start out with some really specific technical question about tools or technology, then evolve into a broader conversation about how studios are changing, and what the theoretical and conceptual implications of the tools and processes might be.

Del Harrow is a sculptor and educator based in Fort Collins, CO. He is an assistant professor of art at Colorado State University and taught previously at Penn State University and at Kansas City Art Institute.

Andy Brayman founded The Matter Factory in Kansas City in 2005. It is part artist studio, part laboratory,


and part factory. His current

The Gartner Hype Cycle is a branded graphic developed by the Gartner Research Group to describe the adoption and application of specific technologies. It describes three distinct phases of cultural visibility following the “technological trigger,” or introduction of a new technology. The Hype Cycle is often brought up in discussions of technology, and many of us have experienced these phases and understand them intuitively, even if we haven’t described the experience to ourselves so clearly. The diagram is interesting within the context of this talk because it illustrates some of the feelings that many of us have about new technology: both our excitement and our trepidation and skepticism.

research focuses the possibilities offered by translating objects from the digital to physical world through sensors, computation and robotics. He consults regularly with artists and universities interested in new technologies.

4104 Roanoke Rd. Kansas City, MO 64111


Peak of Inflated Expectations

This article is adapted from a lecture given at the International Academy of Ceramics symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 18, 2012.

Plateau of Productivity

Slope of Enlightenment

Trough of Disillusionment Technology Trigger



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While the part of this graph that we all understand intuitively is the left half – with flying cars, monorails, the paper-clip helper on Microsoft Word, and the Hubble space telescope coming to mind – we spend less time thinking about technology as it moves through the second half of the cycle. That’s where Andy and I feel we’re working, and what this talk is focused on. While we are aware of the common bugs and shortcomings of technologies as they are introduced into our culture – their failure to live up to the hype – we are also both in the group that is interested in new developments. Andy and I started to incorporate digital tools into our studios fairly early on, at least in terms of the tools’ maturity and widespread use in ceramics. Probably most of the ceramic artists who are currently using digital tools are similar; we are what are called “early adopters.” Tools used by early adopters tend to be used in certain ways and produce particular kinds of outcomes. A good example of this is the way personal computers were primarily used before Apple and Windows interfaces made them widely accessible. Because of their cost and the technical expertise necessary to use them at that time, computers were used mainly for highly technical problems. Most users had extensive training in mathematics and computer science, so the kinds of things they did with computers were closely connected to the structure of the computer as a fundamentally mathematical machine. Today, computers are used by almost everyone, and for a tremendous range of applications extending far beyond their early uses. We’re interested in how the use of digital tools in ceramics will change once later adopters start to play with them. Many forms produced with digital fabrication have a “digital look,” which comes in part from the tendency of early adopters to be interested in the tools themselves and their tendency to make things that look conspicuously like they were made with computer-controlled machines. As digital fabrication tools come to be used more widely, we’ll likely see them applied to ideas and uses further removed from their core structure, and hopefully see a wider range of forms and aesthetic qualities. S T U D I O P O T T E R Y A N D VA R I AT I O N

While the economic advantages of more mechanized processes in the production of pottery (or material culture in general) are pretty obvious, there is a downside. But we see these disadvantages in aesthetic terms rather than economic ones: for instance, the homogeneity of objects made using highly mechanized processes and tooling. In contrast to the flexibility and evolving formal variety of work created by smallscale and more manual production models such as studio pottery, highly mechanized processes usually produce an original and then a series of exact replicas. David Pye’s essay The Nature and Art of Workmanship offers a pretty clear way of thinking about these ideas. Since virtually everything made by humans depends on some degree of tooling or technology, Pye presents the relationship between (more) mechanized and (more) manual fabrication as a continuum. Manual fabrication is 53

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Andy Brayman,

Black Centerpiece, 2013. Black porcelain slip cast, 12.5 x 20 x 17.5 in. OPPOSITE PAGE :

Andy Brayman,

White Vase with Yellow Interior 2013, Porcelain slip with decals, 19 x 10 x 6.5 in.


characterized by Pye’s term “the workmanship of risk,” in which the outcome is uncertain and dependent on the skill and attention of the maker, while more mechanized fabrication (involving more developed jigs, molds, and tooling) is characterized as the “workmanship of certainty,” in which the quality of the work is largely controlled and determined by these tools. Pye makes a case for the continued existence of the “workmanship of risk,” saying that “when the workmanship of certainty remakes our whole environment, as it is bound now to do, it will also change the visible quality of it.” His argument can be summarized as a belief in the innate human need for variety in material culture (like the morphological variety present in the natural world) and a conviction that this variety is possible only through preservation of the workmanship of risk. He illustrates his point with the “variety of qualities” present in works in the British Museum, most of which were produced employing a high degree of workmanship of risk, in comparison with the homogeneity of forms in the average modern department store, where nearly everything is produced through processes characterized by the workmanship of certainty. The fields of studio pottery and the crafts have, to an extent, defined themselves by their differences from industrial production. In studio pottery, the judicious use of technology and mechanization allows for creating series of highly variable objects through iterations. But digital fabrication tools are fundamentally different from earlier mechanized ones, in that they offer another level of flexibility. With tools that can

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move in multiple ways by employing multiple axes of travel, and software that makes that movement increasingly fast and easy to program, one can create complex and variable movement that is also highly adaptable. Digital fabrication has the upside of Pye’s workmanship of certainty – namely, precision and speed – but it can also create variation in forms and decoration that in the past could be achieved only through the workmanship of risk. (It’s worth mentioning that Pye suggested this possibility: “Diversity in shapes and surfaces could also no doubt be achieved fairly crudely by numerically controlled machine tools, and perhaps something more can be hoped for there in the course of time.” In 1969, the year of his essay, this possibility wasn’t really tenable, but to a certain extent digital technology has now made the kind of diversity Pye is alluding to technologically feasible, if not yet a reality.) In manufacturing, this current situation is sometimes referred to as the next Industrial Revolution, or “agile manufacturing.” More flexible mechanized tools allow for small-batch production that wasn’t economically feasible in the past. It’s important to be really clear that agile manufacturing isn’t just coming out of a recent invention of one machine or a few new kinds of machines, but is the product of a simultaneous flowering of connected technologies. While the tools themselves have been around since the sixties, the present “next Industrial Revolution” is probably the result of a confluence of different factors: the development of more and more powerful computers in smaller and smaller packages; programming languages that are easy to use and tailored to specific applications; and highly technical information becoming easily accessible through the Internet and the World Wide Web. We’ve also seen a significant decrease in the cost of hardware, which has given individual studio artists – whose goals may not be the same as those of industry – access to digital fabrication tools. D I G I TA L FA B R I C AT I O N I N O U R S T U D I O S

Let’s look at some specific types of formal variation made possible by current digital fabrication technology. We’re using a few basic tools and software, but we believe that these same formal and aesthetic categories apply to a broad range of tools. 55

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One kind of formal variation is a gradient, where one feature, a dimension or a color, changes in a precise way either over a large space or a large series. Morphology refers to iterations that vary forms in a precise way through a large series; each variant is a result of emergent and/or layered complexity. All of these are parametric, in that you have to define all of the variables at the beginning. But computation power is now so cheap and software so sophisticated that playing with those parameters can be dynamic (relatively simple) and the simulations happen in real time, so you can see the effects of manipulating variables very quickly. This has raised an interesting question: is there a difference between the kind of variation achieved through “computer assisted” production and the kind that a studio potter might explore through iterative making, using the workmanship of risk? In either case, there is a human operator. Another, more precise way to frame this question would be: is it important that there be consciousness present at the moment when the process moves from one variant to the next? You could assume that in this picture we’re painting, all these developments in digital fabrication are going to lead inevitably to more variety from industry, more choices for consumers, and more possibility and variation in material culture. But Neal French, a British industrial designer, makes an interesting counter-argument. French argues that prior to the introduction of CADCAM in British tableware industry, there was actually more variety and formal experimentation. What we might call the old model of designing a new product involved a close relationship between a designer and modeler, using freehand drawing and carved and turned plaster models. In French’s opinion, aesthetic variety came out of the designer’s level of intimacy with the prototyping process. What one could think of as the limitations of tools, such as plaster and the lathe, were actually starting points for aesthetic play. In contrast, with the introduction of CAD modeling the primary relationship in the design process is between the designer, working directly with the computer or computer operator, and consumer testing groups. French believes that the result of this shift has been an overall standardization of forms. As the results of market tests are parsed and averaged, the outcome becomes more and more the same. Either as a cause or result, the production cycle has also sped up significantly. Whereas the old model could require years for a new form to enter the marketplace, with the introduction of CAD and CAM processes, new forms can go from the designer’s computer to the market in a few weeks. “ L I M I TAT I O N S ” O F T O O L S Digital tools and machines still have particular limitations and tendencies, which paradoxically may lead to the late adopters of new technologies using them in unexpected ways. Studio potters are already familiar with this, in the example of a technology such as the potter’s wheel. If you were to plot the location of the wheel as a technology on the Gartner Hype Cycle, it would be really far out on the “plateau of productivity,” yet potters continue to produce unique and highly varied forms EXPLORING THE


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out of a deep investigation of this established technology. So while we would still categorize ourselves as relatively early adopters in the use of digital fabrication technology in the ceramics field, we also each have a background working with ceramics and craft processes. There are things that we’ve noticed, and are exploring in our work, that might come out of late-adopter thinking: looking at what could be thought of as limitations of these tools but can also be thought about as both practical and aesthetic opportunities. For example, 3-axis milling machines (and reductive carving in general) tend to produce tooling marks. The presence of these marks is typically seen as trade-off, because finer tooling that will erase them requires more machine time. But the marks can also be seen as an aesthetic effect. Beyond simply leaving a mark of the process, the movement of the tool over an object can be controlled in a way that creates the desired form while yielding an ornamental patterning. 3-Axis milling machines also tend to be both less expensive and easier to program than machines with additional axes of travel. But they have the “limitation,” because of their limited movement, of not being able to carve undercuts or forms in the round. Making more complex, dimensional forms with these machines has typically required either complicated jiggering and clamping in order to address additional surfaces or else elaborate assembly after the milling process. However, when 3-axis machines are used to make molds for slip-casting, press-molding, or RAM pressing ceramics, these limitations disappear. When an object is “parted” for casting, no part can have any undercuts, and since the limitations of a mold part are virtually identical to those of the 3-axis machine, any mold part can be made on machines of this kind. Finally, visible meshes and triangulation are typically considered an artifact of the 3-D modeling process and also understood as a mark or texture that makes the structure of virtual objects visible. However, this texture can be seen as both ornamental and conceptual, a kind of “truth to materials,” because the structure of the system isn’t covered by another skin. This might be seen as similar to ideas about truth to materials present in wabi-sabi pottery or modernist architecture. On the other hand, this kind of mark can also be a kind of stylization, or visual cliche, a frequent result of the overuse of same tool set, or a fetishizing of the tools and the idea of the technological. It can be seen as “what the contemporary looks like,” but in a way that is more about surface effects than about asking deeper questions. O T H E R P O S S I B I L I T I E S ( T H E F U T U R E O F S O F T WA R E A N D T O O L I N G ) Another idea that we’re exploring in the studio is the development of new tools: expanding the possibilities of digital tools by participating in the development of new technology. This might sound like an impossibly complicated proposition involving years of training in computer science or engineering. But it’s possible today to become an active participant in the development of software and tools with relatively little formal technical training, because of some fundamental changes in the way both hardware and software are developed.


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Del Harrow,

Air_Breath, 2012. Slip cast porcelain, glaze, video, large drawing created using a graphite pencil attached to a CNC milling machine. This series of slip cast pots – morphing between two historical forms – was first modeled in the computer and then created by carving a plaster mold on a CNC milling machine. The entire series was created from one mold by re-carving the mold after each form was cast. Air_Breath is an original artwork for the Northern Clay Center 2013 exhibition "Elemental". Photograph by Peter Lee, courtesy of Northern Clay Center. OPPOSITE :

Del Harrow,

Bone Scaffolding, 2012. Slip cast porcelain, glaze, luster. Molds created on a CNC milling machine. 60 x 72 x 18 in.

On the software side, there is a change that we think started with the advent of what’s known as object-oriented programming. This is the idea that a program, rather than being created out of a sequential list of instructions, is instead understood as a system of interacting objects. This allows for programming and scripting languages that work sort of like a kit of preassembled parts. We both make extensive use in our studios of software called Grasshopper. Your role as the “programmer” is to make the connections in the form of a visual diagram between bits of computer code that have already been created and are provided for you. You don’t have to understand exactly how all the parts work, or know all the complicated work that went into creating them. With a little bit more study, you can even create your own components and then share them with other users. This is an idea that we think is really fundamental to both digital fabrication and the field of ceramics: participating in a collaborative network of people who are both using the tools and also contributing to their development. When you look at the whole system, all the way from software to the final material outcome, it’s just too complex for one person working in isolation to deal with and build every part. Today the line between the programmer and end user is blurring: we think this is a good thing for artists and creativity. Using powerful software sometimes feels as though you’re creating by selection, or that the look and feel of the thing you made are as much the work of the software designer as they are of yours. Our current process of using CNC tools requires at least three separate software applications to get from the design stage to the machine stage. As you move from each piece of software to the next, you have to stop, save your work, and export a file. From the point of view of creative process, this feels like a really significant interruption, which creates a distance between the development and the physical realization of a form. It’s nowhere near as seamless and fluid as manipulating a piece of clay directly with your hands, and there is a skill to get good at navigating that remove. There may be an analogous “remove” in traditional ceramic processes, such as waiting for results to come out of the kiln, but in the case of digital fabrication, we can also work toward creating tools that close this distance. Another limitation still present in much of the work we’ve described comes from the use of any kind of mold. The investment one makes in creating the mold makes iterative variation much less efficient; for every new form a new mold is required. A number of artists are currently developing processes for both building and decorating ceramics forms directly or additively, using CNC machines. CONCLUSION

Why should studio ceramists use computers and digital fabrication technology? Clearly, Andy’s and my interest in this technology goes beyond the straightforward functional outcomes of precision, speed, and scalability that we often associate with digital technology. We are interested in exploring the particular formal possibilities and aesthetic qualities made possible through new and varied techniques. From this 60

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point of view, the answer to this question may be surprisingly similar to another: Why should artists continue to make things by hand? If we assume, as David Pye predicted, that through the use of digital fabrication technology we’ll soon be able to achieve any level of variety and complexity in material culture, what is the use of continuing to make things that explore the workmanship of risk? It seems evident, especially to those trained and experienced in making by hand, that the way we work and make affects the way we think. Beyond the short-term goals of achieving formal effects and variety in material culture, the process of making deeply shapes the cognitive experience of the maker. If this is true, then what we are striving for in the studio, through the use of new and hybrid technologies, is a deeper kind of variety. Beyond the immediate effect of production processes on material culture, we aim for variety in the ways we think about making and the ways in which making is thinking. We believe that this variety will ultimately contribute to a deeper and long-term variety in the pots we make and the world we build. NOTES

French, Neal. “CAD CAM and the British Tableware Industry,” in The Culture of Craft, Peter Dormer, Editor. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997. Pye, David. The Nature and Art of Workmanship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.


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TowardsAnAestheticsOfDigitalClay bonus pages

White and Black Centerpiece, 2013 Porcelain, Slip Cast 12.5 x 20 x 17.5 inches

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Del Harrow Copper Fade 2011 press moulded earthenware 13 x 11 x 3 inches THIS PAGE :

Andy Brayman White Vase with Blue and Orange 2013 Porcelain Slip Cast with Decals 20 x 10 x 6.5 inches


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FindingAPlace by Stacy Snyder

In the book Space and Place by Yi-Fu Tuan, space is described as the unfamiliar and the unknown and place as what we know and have experienced and what brings us comfort. I find that art, movies, books, and pots are most interesting when they contain both a familiar element, something that can be understood, and also an element that is beyond understanding. This middle ground, somewhere between space and place, encourages me to return to this object, movie, or book. I am comfortable, but there is something I still need to understand. For functional studio potters, working in multiples is an integral part of the process. I make multiples to explore forms or a different kind of handle, to try new glaze combinations, to fulfill orders, or to fill the kiln. The process of repetition creates a visual landscape in my studio. The twenty cups on the board or the six house jars just assembled on the table create their own village, their own place. But sets are more than just multiples: they are made with intention. I make sets to explore form and the dynamic of how the pieces interact with one another. I enjoy the challenge of making the pieces work together. Sets impose parameters that I enjoy moving within and testing. These can be defined by function – a dinnerware set, canister set, or nesting bowls – or they can be more about the interaction of forms: a set of bottles or house jars. I question the idea that sets have to match. I am more drawn to groups of forms that work together through a singular quality or formal idea, but are not all exactly the same. I think of families, or train cars, or silos on a horizon: as a whole 62

they are a logical group but can also be separate and individual. I appreciate the challenge of making functional sets, both for having certain defined criteria to adhere to and for the opportunity to push against those criteria. Function also brings familiarity, an opening into how the object is to be used. A single coffee cup is easy to imagine in use; the handle and rim are

above :

Set of Bike Cups with

Yellow Stripes, 2013. Red stoneware, electric-fired, decal, enamel. 4 x 4 x 5 in. each. Photograph by Greg Staley. right:

Set of Silos in Southern

Colorado, 2013.

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above :

Bottle Set, 2013. Red

stoneware, electric-fired. Approx. 16 x 3.5 x 3 in. each. right:

Village Vase Set, 2013.

Red stoneware, electric-fired, decal, enamel. 14 x 11 x 4 in. Photograph by Greg Staley.


intimately known to the body, the hand, and the lips. A set of cups can add to that narrative, offering a choice (which one to use) or suggesting an experience shared with a partner or friend. I like seeing the interplay of the cups together and the new lines and negative spaces that are created. Sets provide a context, a specific place in the world for the piece to go. A saucer on its own seems to lack purpose. Add a cup that fits perfectly, and one becomes integral to the other. When a group of bottles works together to create a land-

scape, each becomes part of something more; they have their place in the world. There is comfort in knowing and understanding that place, as there is comfort in the familiarity of home or in knowing that there is somewhere you belong. One pot can tell a story. Multiple pots tell a more complex story. While my sets may draw on places I have visited, buildings I have driven past, or photographs, I do not seek a direct narrative or one that is about a specific experience. Instead, I want to capture a feeling. To put my finger on exactly what this feel-

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ing is, is not simple. It is the feeling that I get when I see a bike race pass through a small French town, the buildings fitting naturally into the landscape and the racers moving as a unit like one large, fast-moving animal. It is the feeling I get when a lid fits perfectly on a jar, or the way my wedding dress felt just right the first time I put it on. It is the feeling I get when I watch television shows that have just enough for me to relate to (the lead character is a family man) and just enough that I can’t relate to (he’s a member of the Mafia). The feeling is that mid-

dle ground, that area between space and place. In that middle ground, I hope that viewers can bring to my objects their own stories and feelings. Making sets gives me a way to explore that middle ground, and is where I find the greatest sense of play and adventure in my studio work. I find comfort in knowing that I have created places in the world for something I have made. It reinforces the security of my own place, as an artist, a mother, and a person.

Stacy Snyder grew up in the mountains of southwest Virginia and has studied and traveled in the United States and Europe. A studio potter for more than ten years, she lives with her husband and two children.

508 N. Kenmore Street Arlington, VA 22201


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ThinkingAboutContemporaryPotsThinkingAboutContemporaryPot by Sequoia Miller

A lecture at Northern Clay Center’s 2013 American Pottery Festival. To hear an audio version of this talk, titled “Sequoia Miller Lecture,” go to under Recent Posts.

On the day I sat down to start writing this talk for the American Pottery Festival, I received a surprise package in the mail. It turned out to be Medium as Metaphor, a book documenting the 2011-2012 exhibition series at Greenwich House Pottery. The goal of the series, according to the accompanying letter, was to “encapsulate contemporary ceramic studio process.” Flipping through the book, I saw images of installation pieces, often with ceramic components, but nothing that resembled pottery. This struck me as odd: the central activity of Greenwich House Pottery for over 100 years has been to teach pottery classes. It is where I took my first class as an adult and where I more recently returned as a teacher. I love Greenwich House, but how can contemporary studio process not include pottery making? The main questions that I want to think about here stem from this issue of the invisibility of pottery. What changes have we experienced in the field of studio pottery over the past fifteen years? How do we situate the dynamic and varied practice of making pots in a “post-studio” and “post-disciplinary” moment that seems to call for a different approach? My goal is less to reach a particular conclusion than to try to think through the current situation and understand some of the structures by which it operates. Fifteen years is a useful time span for thinking about changes in studio pottery. It reflects my own years of engagement (I was a full-time potter from 1995 to 2010), but more importantly, it seems to delineate a generation: the people I started out with are now mid-career and occupy leadership positions. Fifteen years also connects back to the generation that preceded us and comprised many of our teachers. In preparation for writing, I talked to about ten people – mostly potters of various ages, but also others – about what they perceived as shifts in the landscape of making pots. I make no claims of scientific accuracy, but with their help I identify what seem to be four main changes. 1. M O R E A N D M O R E

Pots now are more diverse and visually sophisticated than ever before. Studio pottery is bursting with makers, engaged with a huge range of materials and processes. An increasing number of ceramics centers, galleries, stores, and online venues showcase this work; residencies and international opportunities abound. MFA programs have produced a corps of thoughtful, well-educated makers. The digital revolution has fundamentally changed the way we access and manipulate visual information. Within our hermetic world we are thriving, and yet we seem invisible in the larger culture. 2. THE MARKETPLACE: 1980, 1995, 2010

The marketplace has fragmented. In the mid-1990s there were a handful of ways to sell pots: studio sales, wholesale, craft shows, and galleries. The marketplace in 1995 had grown directly out of structures set up mostly in the early 1980s. It was larger for sure, but the paradigms in place for my teachers still applied to me when I was getting started. This is no longer true. Potters setting up today cannot ask people like me what we did it doesn’t matter. I am not even sure to what extent people interested in making pots today form the aspiration to be studio potters. 70

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In the past it was often enough simply to make pottery and find a market for it. Not any longer. Now we recognize that we are represented not just by the individual pots we make, but by our larger presence in the world and in the field. Think of the myriad potters who run galleries, record podcasts, maintain blogs, travel internationally as teachers, design for industry, etc. Having a varied professional and artistic life is not new, but it seems to occupy a larger place in our lives and identities now. 4. END OF THE ROMANCE

Many people entering the field in the mid-1990s and earlier, myself included, often invested in romantic ideas about what it meant to be a studio potter. Hand production was an antidote to industrial meaninglessness: we linked ourselves, consciously or not, to the idealism of both the Arts and Crafts movement and the Progressive Era. This seems less true now: we “anti-moderns” have largely integrated into the digital revolution rather than resist it. To the extent that we are oppositional, we enact this using many of the tools of the dominant culture: Instagram, Facebook, virtual galleries. Studio pottery is on the fringe of the culture more by circumstance than by design.

Sequoia Miller was a studio potter in Olympia Washington from 1995 to 2010. In 2012 he earned an MA in Decorative Arts, Design, History and Material Culture at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. He is currently a PhD student in the History of Art at Yale University and an amateur potter.

521 Prospect St. #4 New Haven, CT 06511

For more information about Northern Clay Center or the American Pottery Festival see


The romanticism embedded in this earlier idea of pottery had largely to do with authenticity. Handmade pots were authentic because they represented something more real or genuine than the alienated suburban culture so many young potters grew up in. Craft stood as a material representation of an entire spectrum of values. What authenticity can look like and what it means have shifted. Authenticity is still at play, but we no longer look for it in our affinity to certain historical modes, in how we present ourselves as makers, or in what kind of kilns we fire. Authenticity has shifted from being fixed to being relative. We now have “sites of authenticity” rather than a taproot. Fixed authenticity invested meaning in material attributes (reduction glazes, anagama firing, treadle wheel); authenticities reside in the stories and memories we weave around the objects we make and use as well as what they are made out of. Orthodoxies about what constituted “real” pottery were weak in the 1900s; by now they are virtually gone. WHY THE CHANGE?

It seems to be connected to postmodernity, meaning in this context the recognition (thanks to feminism, post-colonial studies, queer theory, etc.) that hierarchies of value are not absolute; we construct them. Male is not better than female; painting is not better than pottery; anagama is not better than Imari. We don’t, though, all agree. Paintings are valued more than pottery. And the logical extension of totally relative value is extreme: do we get rid of the whole idea of cultural heritage? Hierarchies have shifted, but we live on the cultural and institutional legacies of our ancestors. 71

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The question of re-ordered hierarchies connects to the issue of institutional visibility raised by the Greenwich House catalog. A more salient example of studio pottery’s invisibility is the Renwick Gallery’s recent exhibit 40 Under 40: Craft Futures. Highlighting “the most engaging work of this generation,” it included nothing that resembled pottery (excepting, kind of, Theaster Gates). If we have such a vibrant and diverse pottery culture, how does it become invisible at the premier exhibition of craft? Curator Nicholas Bell identifies recent trends in studio craft, such as post-disciplinarity, the move toward performance, and the integration of digital technologies, and attributes them to the emergence of postmodernity, seeing the younger generation of makers as uniquely equipped to engage with it. Bell’s observations may be correct, but he places the Renwick outside of the postmodern re-ordering of hierarchies. The unstated premise of the show is that the museum has the authority to identify what is important and what is best in the field. While studio practice operates amid the dissolving boundaries of media and subjectivity, the Renwick exerts an authority that seems to stand above postmodernity: conventional hierarchies of power are, indeed, in effect. Studio pottery is invisible in these contexts because it does not meet the institutional demand for spectacle. Studio pots are not bad or less complex than other work; rather, they operate at a register that institutions such as the Renwick do not perceive. Artist, theorist, and activist Guy Debord argued in the 1960s that we live in a spectacledriven society; I think he was right. There is virtually no way that a curator at the Renwick could argue that studio pottery is among the most engaging work of this generation, because it does not fit the definition of “engaging” that the Renwick itself devises. W H AT Q U E S T I O N S A R I S E ?

Have hierarchies of privilege, in fact, been dismantled? Does “post-disciplinarity” describe a condition of freedom or does it simply reaffirm the priorities of cultural institutions? The Renwick is deeply embedded in the power structures of global capitalism. This may be obvious, but it means that the organization does not simply mirror culture: it creates and validates it, doing so in part according to the priorities of the neoliberal global economy. None of us is neutral; we all have a position. The definition of “engaging” that the Renwick establishes is contingent: it is a proposition, not a fact. How do we respond as studio potters? Who knows. Build alternative institutions? Make more spectacular work? Not care? Maybe the Occupy movement and other radical or anarchic strategies offer possibilities worth exploring. Maybe media theorist Alexander Galloway’s notion that a “society of control” has replaced the society of spectacle opens new ways of thinking and making. For me, the first step has been simply to try to clarify why pots drop out of sight in the first place.


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The issue of visibility also ties directly to the perennial question of economic viability. The paradox now is that there is a profusion of makers producing complex, thoughtful, and visually appealing work, and yet supporting oneself seeming harder today even than when I got started. Setup costs are much higher than they were in the 1990s or early 1980s: real estate, healthcare, and fuel costs have all increased substantially. The splintering of the marketplace has created loads of opportunities, but it also makes it harder to figure out what to do. Are more studio pots sold today than in 1995 or 1980? We don’t have good data that I know of, so I don’t think we can really say. My guess, though, is that more of the people making the lovely, complex pots we see in galleries, web sites, and competitions have a harder time getting by than did their peers in the previous couple of generations. I offer no clear conclusions, but I will say that the energy and optimism at the American Pottery Festival were inspiring. So is the handful of success stories such as the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour, or the support for potters in Asheville, Penland, and Seagrove in North Carolina. But do these constitute a viable field, or the exceptions that prove the rule? Does this differ in any substantial way from earlier economic struggles? If one thing has become clear in studying history, it is that many makers of pots, across the spectrum from individual to industry, have struggled to get by. We’ll have to leave these questions as open for now, remembering that as the field of studio pottery changes, the meaning of what we make changes with it.

— Adamson, Glenn. Thinking Through Craft. New York: Berg, 2007. — Bell, Nicholas. 40 Under 40: Craft Futures. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012. — Clark, Garth. “How Envy Killed the Crafts.” In The Craft Reader, edited by Glenn Adamson, 445-456. New York: Berg, 2010. First delivered as a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon in 2008. — Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle, translated by Donald NicholsonSmith. New York: Zone Books, 1994. — Galloway, Alexander. The Interface Effect. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012. — Medium as Metaphor 2011-2012 “Clay in Culture” Exhibition Series. New York: Greenwich House Pottery, 2012.


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Bailey builds superior energy efficient gas and electric kilns. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service and great prices on thousands of items for the pottery studio and classroom.

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We are pleased to announce a new line of work by Ms Lottie Dipps of Edgar, Florida – the home of EPK. Lottie is a certified pottery prodigy and the owner of the patent for cone 0100.

Read the story behind the story at

Vol 42 No 1 Winter 2014  

A sampling of articles from the Winter/Spring issue of The Studio Potter with bonus images not published in the print version as well as the...

Vol 42 No 1 Winter 2014  

A sampling of articles from the Winter/Spring issue of The Studio Potter with bonus images not published in the print version as well as the...