Friday, August 24, 2012

Sculptural or functional? Does it really matter?

My pieces used to be sculptural not functional. I took classes to learn how to use the wheel, to only to prove to myself that I could conquer my past failures, but now things are merging in a new way. I hand build with more texture. I’m making more functional pieces like cups, bowls and platters. I started to think that my work was going to change completely from sculptural to functional.

But sculpture is sneaking in. It started very slowly and I didn’t even realize it.

On the wheel I struggled to make basic forms. Wheel work was functional and I worked hard to learn to make mugs, bowls and vases. My hand building was sculptural. With ease I played with coils, slabs and slump molds. Then one day, a wheel thrown cup sat on the hand building table just looking too plain. The next thing I knew, coils were winding in, on and around the cups and bowls. Small slab pieces were attaching to the sides and bottoms.
Surprise! Sculptural elements!
Sometime during this slow, unconscious process, I became obsessed with clay. My day would start out on the wheel in the cold with my dog, Jilly curled up on an old dog bed in the garage nearby.
Lunchtime came and went as I continued to throw just one more piece. These pieces started to take over my sculpture studio, and more afternoons disappeared as I added coils and leaves to the thrown cups, vases and bowls.
Not only did my functional work start to become sculptural, my former sculptural hand built pieces became functional. I was hand building jars that started to sprout leaves, too.
The questions raced in my head. Is it sculptural or functional? Is it pottery or art? Does it really matter?
No. I can hold a mug with a leaf handle and sip my coffee. I can display a hand built jar with coiled stems and leaves for the beauty (and I can hide something in it if I want).

I have the functional and the sculptural. What matters is that my heart and my hands are happy.


Tracey Broome said...

Hey there: thanks for leaving a note on my blog today! Always nice to meet a new potter. Here is some work you might be interested in. I worked for this woman for a couple of years, rolled lots of coils and slabs for her. She would have a potter throw work on the wheel and then she would add the hand built features. She was nuts and I didn't last long, but learned a lot!

Susan Gallacher-Turner and Mike Turner said...

Hey Tracey,
Great to find another clay blog and artist as well. Loved what you had to say about all those 'fees'.

Glad you stopped by!