Often my memories seem tied to ideas. I remember the ideas and then the facts flex 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” in reference to a pot form. My memory is that despite his huge shoulders and small hips this dance, this pose had a grace, perhaps equivalent to the suggested grace in the to the phrase of Cardew, “The Majesty of Form”.
He, Victor, a fantastic human, was describing a condition of a pot, a kind of breath. This word, breath, is not one I hear 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, the absolute-skin-surface of a pot and the volume – the air inside is surely a better description for some. Breath, as a word, is tied to Buddhist ideals but these ideals or ideas, are not really that removed from the fullness, balance, and active stillness (active or anticipatory stasis) suggested by the breath in pots. Back then while I was in school either we did not use this word “breath” or my ears had a special filter to keep it out.
Patty Driscol, Gail Busch and I were sitting around one evening (Kathy Ervin) could have been over, looking through the dictionary for some reason and thinking of this dance of Victor, his word, “blossoming”, or at least the idea of it and I came across the word erumpant. Erumpant is ready to burst, ready to pop. A pregnant woman, a ripe fruit, and as I have a certain taste for the tasteless, a zit ready to pop. I think we had been playing scrabble.
There is really only one sort of ripeness, one fullness, described by “erumpent” but I think it is one sort with stages. It is a useful word but rather one dimensional. We really have many different varieties of fullness in the field of ceramics. Having thought about it for years I now have more categories, a bud, a blossom opening, opened, even wilting, there is growth like a shoot of bamboo, thickening of the trunk like a tree or a kapok tree, the beer belly, as well as the various perceptions of erumpancy. There is 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. Each have their place, and grace, and all can have breath if done well. Some are harder to pull off than others.
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 contain action, emotion, and layers of expectations. If they do not have these layers of meaning then 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. ya ya ya.
Recently I went to a ceramics conference in Kansas City. I got to see Victor for a few short minutes. I don’t think that I can trydescribe talking with Victor in any way that truly captures it. There were scores of people waiting to talk ad I had only a few minutes. It was delightful.
Shape, a separate essay but attached to the original version will appear in a different post.