My View of Pottery

At its most basic, pottery is a functional tool for transporting, storing, and cooking.  Before our ancestors developed pottery, they had to carry liquids in skins, cook on rocks or in skins or directly on fire and had no pretty good, reasonably waterproof container in which to store things (they could hollow out wood or soft stone, if available - I guess).

I find myself drawn to this most basic, primal use and form of pottery.  I like to make a form and say "what would this be good for" or "I want to make a storage container…." and make that happen.  It connects, in a small way, to how those in the distant past lived their lives.

To get a feel for how pottery might have gotten started, I've experimented with lining baskets with wet clay and moving water around in this structure.  Actually, it works pretty well.  If you smear some clay around on the inside of a basket, you can fill it with water and carry it round for quite a while.  If it leaks, just slap in some more clay.  Taking this a step further, I've set that lined basket aside and let it dry.  The clay cracks, and if you put water in, it runs out and takes a lot of clay with it.  No real surprise there.  But you can add some clay back over that and use it for a while longer.

At some point the basket gets ratty, and you need something to burn, so you throw the whole thing - basket, clay - into the fire.  The next day, you notice that some of that clay has gotten hard and no longer dissolves in water and as a bonus, has the imprint of the basket.  So you start experimenting - you get a lot of breakage, but some stay intact and all you have this new, permanent container.  

And of course, it just takes off from there.

So, when I look at pottery, i'm looking at form and function and the roots that might be associated with the piece.  A modern form might have holes or exaggerated extensions or extrusions but when you get down to it, its roots are that of a vessel, and that vessel has been on a long journey.

© William Tucker 2012