Friday, May 6, 2011


It is an amazing process looking at pots. The eye takes in the whole image and the brain immediately reduces the image to its all of the pieces parts. From the foot to the lip or lid, the brain goes to work looking for errors, inconsistencies and faults. The brain races to the memory bank and compares the whole and its parts to stored away images of explary pieces and compares and contrasts the one to the other. What is truly amazing about this process is that given enough experience, this takes just seconds to process all this information.

I used to wonder if the same rules that would apply to a Greek urn, would also apply to the rough and assymetrical ware (chaki) of Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). I realized that once you establish a visual vocabulary of those pots, the same type of processing the form and surface takes place. It would seem to be all about image recovery within your memory where your brain applies principles of the “golden mean”, geometry and established archetypes on each and every pot. The dialogue between pot and viewer is sacrosanct and as the poet John Keats extolled in his poem, ODE TO A GRECIAN URN (1819);

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need know.”

“Aesthetically a pot may be analyzed for its abstract content or as a humanistic expression; subjectively or objectively; for its relationship of pure form; or its manner or handwriting and suggestion of source of emotional content.” This quote from THE POTTER’S CHALLENGE by Bernard Leach is the premise for why people bond with pottery or objects in general. It is the dialogue sparked by the potter who has done his/her best to capture their “humanistic expression” which carries on a dialogue with the viewer. The “emotional content” of the pot is the trigger that connects potter/pot to the viewer and begins the journey and study of the object, its components and its source.

The illustration is from THE POTTER’S CHALLENGE by Bernard Leach.