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Often my memories seem tied to ideas with the ideas as primary and the memories subserviant. I remember the ideas. Fact flexes to fit the thesis or concept. So I remember Victor Babu with his feet together slightly on his tiptoes hands open and arms outstretched above his head saying, blossoming. My memory is that despite his huge shoulders and small hips this dance, this pose had a grace, perhaps equal to the phrase Cardew liked, "The Majesty of Form".

He was describing a condition of a pot, a kind of breath. This word, breath, is not one I see defined directly in "A Potter's Workbook" but Clary Illian talks the concept. She talks about the interaction between the surface or wall of a pot and the column or volume of air on the inside. I describe a relation between the skin, that is the absolute surface of a pot and the volume breath, but calling the volume 'the air inside' is surely a better description for some, my volume at least seems to include the walls.

Patty Driscoll, Gail Busch and I were sitting around on evening looking through the dictionary ( I think we had been playing Scrabble® for some reason and thinking of Victor's dance, or at least the idea of it, and I came across the word erumpant in the Dictionary. Erumpant, is a description of a form full, ready to burst.

Now after many years I have more categories relating to erumpancy in my head and it is time to set them to paper and the paper to a magazine. There is a bud, a blossom opening, opened, even wilting. There is growth like a shoot of bamboo, the thickening of the trunk like a tree or a kapok tree, the beer belly, as well as the various stages of erumpancy; just beginning to bulge, quickly beginning, a hint of readiness or ripeness, ready to burst, actually bursting , burst and a sort of flacid loss of muscle or skin tone; pressure released.

The words themselves have little meaning when it comes to pots until we categorize ideas, visual ideas and assign them to the words. Some words collect these ideas better than others. These words, the ones that work well, contain action, emotion and layers of expectations. If they do not add these characteristics to the work. Using them adds nothing to the already obvious characteristics of the pot; as in,"that is a smooth pot". So it is not really the use of words, but what we put into them. Its the subtext. Ask an actor, a musician, or a teabowl maker, they will all tell you in one set of words or another that it is the subtext that in art counts. It is also subtext in words that carries poetry.

Shape is an all pervading idea. Sounds have shape, equations have shape, the same can be said of form.

Canyons are forms with a minimum height and usually with 2 maximum heights that appear at both sides of a width.

Adding defloculants in small increments to a clay slip gives the apparent viscosity a shape, a graph. Usually this shape is presented as a valley, a canyon. A deflocculant makes a suspension un- floc or deaggregate, it makes the particles stop sticking together. A deflocculant makes slips more fluid with less water. Typical defloculants used in clay are sodium silicate, soda ash, Sodium hexametaphosphate (old Calgon) and Darvan©, a brand name of sodium hexa-meta-acrylate.

As you add sodium silicate to a slip the apparent viscosity decreases up to a point. After that point additional sodium silicate increases the apparent viscosity. The percentage of sodium silicate graphed against apparent viscosity produces a shape with a small range where the viscosity is near the lowest point. It is hard to add just enough sodium silicate to minimize the viscosity. Just a little too much and viscosity increases. The sharp bottom is like the bottom of a canyon with a small fast moving stream.

Darvan© produces a shape that has a flatter botttom. It is easier to use because you do not have to hit it just right. Darvan© is much more expensive to use, but is easier on molds. Some people use Sodium silicate to get there slip close to the right viscosity and finish with Darvan. This seems like a great way to get inexpensive but great slip. I think it makes the process much easier despite the obvious two ingredient complication. Darvan creates a different shaped curve, a broad flat valley, maybe even a flood plain between two rather steep but well spread sides.

Simple two ingredient phase diagrams have similar forms but have very pointed minima, there is no flattening at the bottom. However as the ingredients in mix get less pure the bottoms of these charts become a group of small dips and approaches the kind of forms you get with deflocculants. Perhaps if clays were more pure and the size of the particles consistent the viscosity vs amount of deflocculant curves would have the same kind of minima as pure 2 ingredient phase diagrams.

Emotions and human interactions can have valley shapes too.

Societies that bury hurt feelings as a matter of course tend to run amok. Places where any expression of discomfort, pain, fear, or hate is seen as a betrayal of norms, have very flat temperments. Flat that it is until you encounter the chasm, a crack rent forth from the plain of expressionless feeling. A crack deep violent and hard to escape. Other cultures, where your problems are expressed and drag on others, have less but more frequent troubles with smoother contours, easier escape, and the ability to see it coming. These cultures are always in some small turmoil. There is no escape from shape.

Breath is tension between pressure and violence, containment and expression. It is a more dimensional description of shape, or form if you prefer. It contains a predicition, an anticipation, and perhaps a balance of a sort. Dynamic in a way, but still static. Perhaps breath is the anticipation of dynamism.

Pitchers or jugs as they are sometimes called, the favorite functional form it seems of the Leach School, are perhaps the best illustration of dynamic breath. But to my thinking today, they are only physically dynamic in use, breath makes pitchers dynamic in thought, dynamic in anticipation.

The bell shaped curve is yet another primary shape. The statisticians have done a good job defining and explaining what this shape means. I throw three inch bowls very quickly, I have thrown over 10,000 of them. I now loose very few. As I throw more and more the unwanted variance has decreased and at least parts of the characteristics of these pots exist in very steep bell shapes. If I am aiming for 3 inch, very few are smaller than 2.5 inches, a few more exceed 3.5 inches. There is a limit to how small I can throw these without radically changing my technique so one would expect more variation on the top side of the curve. This page has been visited 7282 times.

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Page last modified on February 22, 2017, at 10:26 PM