Stoneware & Porcelain: The Art of High-Fired Pottery

By Daniel Rhodes | Go to book overview

Preface

During the past few years there has been an enormous increase in the number of people interested in pottery as a creative medium, and particularly an increase of interest in high-fired ceramics. In many ways stoneware and porcelain are ideal mediums for individual expression in ceramics, and I feel that we are only at the beginning of a renewal of vitality in this ancient art. It is difficult to realize that only a few decades ago knowledge of the techniques of stoneware and porcelain was restricted to a mere handful of individual potters and to those engaged in the commercial production of tableware. It is natural that this revival of interest has been accompanied by an intense curiosity about high temperature bodies, glazes, and firing, and potters have pursued the intricacies of their craft with an intensity which has amounted almost to obsession. Too often testing, experimentation, and the various processes of surface involvement have become ends in themselves, and pots, instead of being expressive or fitted for their purpose, have been merely the vehicles for a display of dexterity and technique.

We have now come to a point, I believe, where the relationship between technique and the essential values of the pot has become clear. It is obvious that the validity of any handmade ceramic today resides in its quality as a work of art, rather than in its utility as a vessel, or in its technical virtuosity. Our pots, if they are to live at all, must be really good. They must be individual, expressive, full of character and vitality--beautiful. Though made of lifeless clay, they must suggest awareness of life and the continuing force which makes us search for new formulations of the meaning of existence. If our pots are dull, academic, pretentious, or inept, we are only making objects for future rummage sales.

To make really fine pots, to achieve in pottery a truly authentic statement, is a challenge. To meet this challenge, the potter must train himself in his craft until technique can become assimilated into himself so that it no longer exists as a thing separate from the essential purpose of the work. His technical control and his creative insights must be part of the same thing.

I believe that the idea that craft, method, or technique existing separately from meaning, idea, and form is false. These two, the method and the meaning, must melt together so as to become indistinguishable. I believe that art and craft cannot be separated, and it is notable that in the Chinese language there is one word which expresses the perfect fusion of these two ideas. In our society the "craftsman" has often assumed that, because he is working in a "craft" medium, he is somehow absolved from the disciplines of art--disciplines which involve the development and the freeing of creative intuitions at the highest levels of perception. It is perhaps only fair to say that, on the other hand, the "fine artist" has

-vii-

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