Stoneware & Porcelain: The Art of High-Fired Pottery

By Daniel Rhodes | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Stoneware-Forms and Surfaces

Stoneware is the medium par excellence for the expression of form in pottery. The sturdy substance of the material, and the beauty of the clay itself, entirely aside from any embellishment of glaze or slip, seems ideal for the embodiment of distinct and strongly stated pottery shapes. Stoneware clay may also be highly plastic, with scarcely any limitations in wheelwork or in any other forming process.

Historically, stoneware had its beginnings in styles which were functional, down to earth, and more concerned with easy and rapid production and with natural and readily performed glazing techniques, than they were with decoration, refinement, symbolism, or naturalistic representation. The old stonewares of the Han period in China, the strong earthy everyday wares of the Sung and T'ang periods, the free, imaginative, and untamed stonewares of the Koreans, the flowing forms and uninhibited techniques of Japanese stoneware, the strong shapes and surfaces of old Rhenish salt-glazed stoneware, and the sturdy, unassuming, yet beautifully shaped wares of the 19th century stoneware potters; all of these have in common a union of means and ends, and an honest strength of statement which is inspiring for the present- day potter, and which furnishes a basic and continuing standard. Without such wares we might not be aware of the sculptural poetry which can exist in pots. The challenge is to state our own insights into the potential of the medium, both as to the technical possibilities of material and process and the creative potential of form and surface, with equal vigor and truth.


1. Throwing

Throwing is a process of forming which is unique to pottery, and which differs from shaping operations employed with any other material. It is a process which requires no tools other than the hands (and the revolving wheel) and which enables the potter to create form directly, swiftly, and out of a material which in itself has no form and no particular character except that which is given it by the processes and procedures chosen by the potter. In this sense, the thrown pot is entirely the creation of the potter, and every feature of it--its shape, weight, form, character, color, texture, feel--is his doing and his responsibility. All other materials with which man makes objects (with the possible exception of plastics) have a quality of substance which is given, and the maker, while he may create a new object full of individuality, is limited to what he finds already in the material. Objects made of wood or metal remain wood or metal and the designer accommodates himself to the texture, the hardness, the color, and the working properties of the wood or the metal. In a sense, potters create their own material. We are revealed for what we are in our pots, and cannot rely on the natural beauty of an already formed material.

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