Category Archives: not Thai

About Painters

It doesn’t but I do.

About painters, at least young ones that I knew when I was young, or at least younger.

Frequently I had people from other media wonder/ask how the uncertainty of firing could be dealt with. I always found this question baffling. I could not always put it into words.

The uncertainty can be excitement. You can have certainty if that is what you want, or at least close to it. Test and measure until you are certain. Its not what I want from clay, but someone can. Life is uncertain, you are always balancing variables in everything, is the pan hot enough for the eggs not to stick or is the butter going to burn?

But all of this is prefaced on the idea that painters can visualize, fully comprehend, fully plan, fully understand, what their work will look like, how it will impact people, themselves, how it will stand. They work in a similar manner, and really have no idea until it is finished. They too have surprise. The too are orchestrating process.

Really though, the work is not finished until we are gone, and well after that. When someone uses your coffee cup or mug, or looks at your work anew, each time the work changes. It is not some fixed static entity when it comes from the kiln.

The classic example of this post firing manipulation of work is Old Teabowls, with records kept of who drank what and when, with stains, cracks, repairs, Kintsugi, thoughts, writings poetry. But it really is not different for any other object. Price is part of the work, What Rick Newby thinks about it becomes part of it, who bought it, what gallery, a thrift store?

There is nothing that does not add to the work, even if it seems to detract. I am not sure it is over if it is buried. Although if its been subducted, melted and extruded as new igneous material the relationship is getting a bit thin,

Thrift Store Pots

I arrived in Helena with Gail and the boys. If I remember correctly Benny was an infant. I was supposed to be on a quick run to the Rock Hand Hardware Store but guiltily I stopped at a thrift store on the way. I did a quick run through the hardware area. I never buy clothes, well, hardly ever. I walked down one of the isles with pots and turned them over to see if any were made with clay bodies (compositions) from before the 70’s. One ugly little cup with a funky dead form, coil handle, poorly turned footring and bubbled glaze, that was rubbed down with a brick to break the bubbles, was old stoneware. It did not have the typical APGreen brand fireclay look. It was ugly so I set it down.

By the time I got to the end of the isle I was thinking again of the ugly pot. “Whose signature was that?” I went back and turned it over again. Clearly it was signed, “Voulkos” (right).
IMGP5147RosieVolkoussm
Peter Voulkos is one of the best known clayers of the 20th century. He made delightful functional pots until he began making abstract sculpture. He began studying pottery at Montana State University in Bozeman under Francis Senska and was a resident artist at the Archie Bray Brickyard. After Berard Leach, Shoji Hamada and Soetsu Yanagi lectured and demonstrated at the Bray (not sure of this it could have been before) the resident artists at the Bray were asked to make “Bray Standard Ware” (I need a source for this). One of the items was a small cup with a little coil handle just like this one. Voulkos, I think, resented having to make these, but made them. In defiance, (again conjecture) he signed his cups.

(Yanagi, Leach, Rudy Autio, Voulkos, Hamada, at the Bray Pottery)

Cup in hand, poker-faced, I paid my 25 cents and left with my cup.

A few months later at the same store I bought a cup by Rosie Wynkoop (left) who had been one of my students in the community classes at the Bray.  It cost a dollar. I think she made it while she was one of my students.

In graduate school one of the off syllabus things we learned was that garage sale and thrift store shopping was a competitive sport. The price tags were left on the pots. One friend was so well known at one thrift store that she received phone calls on the store phone.

On occassion, I invite my students over to my house to view pots. One time while talking about these two drinking vessels a student asked, “Wouldn’t Rosie be upset to find out that her work only cost a dollar?” I answered, “No! She is getting four times the price of Voulkos!”