CREATING MINDFULNESS WITH SENSUAL HANDMADE FUNCTIONAL CERAMICS by Alexandra Schwartz
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of The Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts
Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL May 2013
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank my supervisory committee, Bonnie Seeman, Dr. Karen Leader, and Angela DiCosola for providing guidance and support throughout this process. I would also like to thank my ceramic mentors that have shaped the way I make and think about functional pots: John McCoy, Hadi Abbas, Robert Reedy, Gertrude Graham Smith, and Scott Goldberg. I am forever grateful for the many wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of sharing a ceramics community space with: you have been encouraging, inspiring, and have aided in developing the person, the teacher, and the artist that I am today.
Creating Mindfulness with Sensual Functional Handmade Ceramics
Florida Atlantic University
Master of Fine Arts
2013 I create opportunities for nourishment that are physical, emotional and spiritual
with my functional porcelain vessels. They reference the human body’s sensual curves, dimples, and bulges, establishing the experience of eating as a metaphor for the sensual experience of human interaction. The tactility is heightened by the variety of glazes dancing around the vessels, from satiny smooth and skin-like, to wet and dripping. Handmade vessels connect the users not only more deeply to the food that provides them nourishment, but also connects them more deeply to one another, and to the maker of the work. The slow, deliberate work of making one-of-a-kind objects is similar to the act of carefully preparing a homemade meal, and in turn, dedicating time to the ritual of sitting down together to enjoy that meal. Whether I’m working in my studio creating vessels, or in my kitchen creating a meal, I derive the same experience of spiritual wellbeing. In these moments I am completely present and mindfu iv
DEDICATION This work is dedicated to the matriarchs of my family: my mother, Anita Schwartz, a kindred spirit with whom I have shared a love of art, dance, ceramics, cooking, and everything else; my Auntie Sadita, who taught me so much about drawing, cooking, sewing, having compassion, and caring for others; my Abuela for loving life and putting love into every delectable treat she made for me. To my genius father, George, whose patience and engineering acumen has allowed me to realize many improbable ideas. His immense love and support gave me confidence to trust my instincts and follow my heart throughout my life. I also dedicate this work to my brother, Jonathan, for always being loving and supportive, and for reminding me not to take myself too seriously. Finally, to the love of my life, Lee, for supporting me and always being there for me, at moments of joy and of chaos: I can't imagine how I would have accomplished this arduous task without you to encourage and help me along the way.
CREATING MINDFULNESS WITH SENSUAL HANDMADE FUNCTIONAL CERAMICS INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 1 PERSONAL BACKGROUND........................................................................................... 3 INFLUENCE OF HISTORICAL FUNCTIONAL VESSELS ........................................... 5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HANDMADE.......................................................................... 7 THE HUMAN CUSTOM OF FOOD SHARING .............................................................. 9 DINING AS RITUAL....................................................................................................... 11 PRESENCE, AWARENESS, MINDFULNESS .............................................................. 14 THE VESSEL AS METAPHOR ...................................................................................... 17 EXHIBITION BODY OF WORK .................................................................................... 18 CASE STUDIES ............................................................................................................... 34 TECHNIQUES AND PROCESSES ................................................................................. 38 ARTISTIC INFLUENCES ............................................................................................... 40 RAMIFICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ............................................................ 42 PLATES ............................................................................................................................ 44 ENDNOTES ..................................................................................................................... 49 BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………..50
INTRODUCTION We, as humans, must nourish our bodies with food for survival. We are similarly instinctually driven to interact with one another and forge relationships that provide us with protection, support, and the ability to reproduce and continue our species. We crave and enjoy nourishing our bodies, both with food and with human interaction. I create opportunities for nourishment that are physical, emotional and spiritual with my functional porcelain vessels. They reference the human body’s sensual curves, dimples, and bulges, establishing the experience of eating as a metaphor for the sensual experience of human interaction. Handmade vessels connect the users not only more deeply to the food that provides them nourishment, but also connects them more deeply to one another, and to the maker of the work, whose fingerprint may now provide the perfect place for a hand to grip the side of a bowl or cup. The slow, deliberate work of making one-of-a-kind objects is similar to the act of carefully preparing a homemade meal, and in turn, dedicating time to the ritual of sitting down together to enjoy that meal. Whether I’m working in my studio creating vessels, or in my kitchen creating a meal, I derive the same experience of spiritual wellbeing. In these moments I am completely present: my senses are sharpened by the feel of wet clay sliding through my fingers, the scent of fresh cilantro on my cutting board, the sound of an egg frying in the pan.
Creating functional vessels is especially interesting to me because users must become intimate with the vessels themselves: caressing, cradling, and wrapping their lips around undulating rims to bring nourishment from the ceramic body of the piece into their own body. This sacred transfer is one that binds the vessel to the user, just as people become emotionally and spiritually bound to one another through physical interaction. By referencing the giving flesh and movement of the body with my functional vessels, they become familiar and inviting for users to caress and hold.
PERSONAL BACKGROUND I was fortunate enough to enter this world into a family that is unconditionally loving and nurturing. My mother and I come from a long line of creative, talented and hardworking women who share a passion for creating nourishing meals with delicious smells that gather the family around the dining table. From a young age, my mother always made preparing and eating food a fun activity. She would cut up fruits and vegetables and have my brother and I invent faces on our plate, learning to enjoy healthy foods, and to take a creative approach to eating. As soon as we were old enough, we were standing on chairs to reach the kitchen counter, dipping measuring cups into the flour container, whisking eggs, and chopping vegetables as the designated sous chefs. Today, my family collaborates in the kitchen, constantly trying new recipes and reinventing the old favorites. We bond over creating and sharing delicious meals, making the food the center of our gatherings: cooking, eating, and talking about how we could improve what we’ve made and what we might try next. Growing up, dancing was a huge part of my life. This urge to create movement has endured throughout my life: in the dance studio, on competition stages, and as a dance teacher, creating my own choreographies. It has made me keenly aware of the physical space my body inhabits, and the shapes my body creates when it moves and interacts with other bodies. Today, as a yoga practitioner and instructor, my sense o 3
body awareness has continued to sharpen. I am interested and attracted to forms and shapes that express movement, and forms that reference the beautiful, natural shapes of the human body. By adding movement to the forms that I create, I hope to animate them further, strengthening the connection to the vessels, and increasing their desire for interaction. As the users hand reaches for a vessel, I would like it to seem like the vessel is reaching back, welcoming touch and inviting use.
INFLUENCE OF HISTORICAL FUNCTIONAL VESSELS Porcelain was first discovered and used in China more than 3,000 years ago. With every passing century, the clay became more refined, and the kiln technology advanced. The style I use, of dripping and overlapping colored glazes in random areas of my work, is reminiscent of the ceramics of the T'ang Dynasty (618-906 C.E.) Henan and Northern provinces. This suffused glaze technique, called huaci, was an advent that added diverse palettes of color and texture to T'ang wares.1 Dripping glaze techniques were also employed in the T’ang’s sancai (three-color glaze) method.2 The colorful drips add an interesting visual surface texture to the simple functional forms and ornate sculptures. Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.) ceramics were even more refined than the T’ang, and featured elegant shapes with decorative fluting and undulating lips.3 These forms serve as an inspiration for many of the forms I create. The glazes on these forms tend to be monochromatic celadons, making the aesthetic less about embellishment and ornament, and more about the shape of the vessels. There are graceful pouring vessels with long, curving spouts, tall, narrow necks and rounded bellies. Some of these vessels, such as incense burners, are raised up on tripod feet, while other feet undulate around the bottom of the vessel. Many of these aesthetics are reinterpreted and utilized in my own work. The forms prevalent in eighteenth and nineteenth century English ceramics also include some of the influences for my work. English potteries, including Wedgewood, 5
Worcester, Staffordshire, Spode, and Chelsea Porcelain created elegant, rounded shapes, curvaceous lines, and segmented "sweetmeat" vessels. Soup tureens and two-part handles (appearing on my cream and sugar bowls in the tea service) are also referencing work made in this historical location. By the 1760s, Wedgewood was producing all kinds of tableware, and concentrating on both the aesthetics and function of spouts, handles and lids.4 Staffordshire wares of the nineteenth century included pitchers and plates with undulating rims, bringing softness and movement into the forms.5
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HANDMADE You may ask why, in today’s high-tech age, do people like me continue to make hand-thrown functional pottery? Industry creates super light, perfectly stackable, practically unbreakable and inexpensive wares that carry out all of the same functions, so why continue this slow, imperfect pursuit? For me, thrown functional work is not just about utility and “getting the food into the body;” it facilitates the artful experience of reveling in the feel, taste, and scent of enjoying a meal. Eating should be an intellectual, sensory and mindful act, full of noticing and awareness. Using handmade vessels heightens this experience by offering the artist’s hand and subjective ideas about function and feeling. Studio potter Clary Illian asserts that because we are individuals with habits of using objects based on individual “strength, dexterity, experience, and concepts about the meaning of objects,” we regard different characteristics as ideally utilitarian or not.6 Of course, vessels that are meant to be functional should work, but there are many possible considerations that would make a vessel functional. Once you begin to use handmade functional pottery, you become sensitive to the characteristics that you personally enjoy, including feeling the weight of a certain object in your hand, or being sensitive to where the handle attaches to the side of a mug, you inherently know what feels good to use, and you choose vessels based on those notions. Suddenly industrial wares seem very impersonal and displeasingly one-size-fits-all. 7
Witnessing others interact with the work I made is very insightful: it seems that individuals gravitate to different forms for different reasons. This speaks to our individuality and subjective preferences, about the food we enjoy and the vessels we want to use. Making thrown functional pottery is a pursuit of excellence in craftsmanship and the preservation of a fabricating process in which one individual designs and creates vessels using clay. By making functional pottery, we are participating in a tradition which is thousands of years old, and dedicating ourselves to activities we find meaningful and believe would be relevant in any version of the future world. We are constantly adding new voices to the conversation about function and the handmade with our original styles.
THE HUMAN CUSTOM OF FOOD SHARING In general, when animals find food, they eat it on the spot. Exceptions include birds and dogs, which carry home food for their young until they mature and can find food for themselves. Only human beings actively and regularly portion out their food and share it with others. This distinction probably aided in the development of basic human traits, including language, kinship and status systems, technologies including weapons and cooking vessels, as well as the creation of a moral code.7 Civilizations began in part because we so regularly need to eat to sustain ourselves, and because we have always shared what we are eating. The simple rules of eating are that if you do not eat, you will die, and no matter how large your meal is, you will soon be hungry again.8 Not much can be accomplished when one is hungry, therefore establishing a reliable food supply is the first hurdle for any budding community. Predating our ancestor Homo sapiens, earlier than 75 thousand B.C., Homo erectus communities thrived by building fires for warmth, and hunting woolly mammoth together, sharing the meat and hide that allowed them to survive the cold climate.9 There are many underlying connotations of food that stretch well beyond physical nutrition: it is an art form, a venue for social interaction and for commercial exchange. What is on the plate and who is sitting at the table distinguishes separate classes and cultures. 9
Many languages have similar words for “food” and “bread.” Bread, to this day, remains a symbolic cornerstone of every meal. The familiar adage of “breaking bread with others” implies kinship, trust, pleasure and gratitude in sharing. “Companion,” in Latin literally means “a person with whom we share bread.”10 The act of sharing food becomes the bond that unites us.11
DINING AS RITUAL Ritual is defined as action frequently repeated, in a form largely laid down in advance.12 From the time we are young, our parents instill within us particular table manners specific to our culture or heritage. We are expected to embody those particulars so that they are second nature, and we are effortlessly able to express and pick up social cues that distinguish proper behavior in specific situations. “Everyone present knows what should happen, and notices when it does not.”13 The dining experiences we have while travelling to places where the culture is very different from our own always serve as memorable reminders of the rituals that we take for granted, such as eating with utensils, and the difficulty and sometimes discomfort of attempting to conform to the rituals of others. In her book Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, former Gourmet Magazine editor, New York Times food critic, and chef Ruth Reichl talks about her experience in Tunis as a young adult. She describes the “triumphant pyramid of grain, fish, and spices large enough to feed a small city,” and the way she learned to use her fingers to roll the couscous toward her and put it in her mouth without touching her lips.14 Such a custom was second nature to her Tunisian companions who effortlessly repeated the action. For most Americans, the idea of sharing one large communal platter of food, using only our hands, and sitting on a carpet or cushion low to the ground, are unfamiliar rituals that are common in many other places around the world. Tourists who visit the 11
Pyramids of Egypt always return with impressive memories of being shocked by the manner in which Egyptians pour tea into a glass until it overflows into the saucer.15 Because our eating and drinking rituals are so ingrained in our daily lives, we immediately notice and react to the slightest deviation in behavior. Ritual behavior is expected, repetitive, and (to each of us) correct. The repetitive patterns in our rituals allow us to concentrate on other things, such as the conversation, business meeting, or enjoyment of the food. We also notice, and enjoy the exceptions to the daily repetition: the fun of eating an artichoke with your hands is an opportunity to put down the knife and fork without breaking any rules. These intentional variations in ritual add depth and excitement into the repetitive patterns of dining. Opportunities for dipping fruit into chocolate fondue, or building your own fajita are exciting ways to make the act of eating more central to the dining experience: the food becomes the topic of conversation. The challenge for contemporary potters is to be sensitive to steadily evolving eating and drinking rituals, and to create vessels that fulfill the needs of the modern eater. Conversely, the potter has the potential of creating new dining rituals by challenging people to use untraditional vessels that may require a different approach. Some of my vessels have multiple chambers, requiring the user to fill each with something different: perhaps an extra chamber inspires the user to serve an extra condiment that would have otherwise been forgone, or perhaps the user may decide to create an all together different type of meal inspired by a segmented vessel that requires many little compartments, containing different components of a “make your own” style concoction. This exhibition features services for two with titles indicating the food that could be served in the vessels, 12
but it is up to the viewers imagination as to how they would match each vessel to the corresponding food, and considering how they might approach using the vessels in their own home, with their own specific dining rituals. Rituals are not static and unchanging; instead they endure because they are open to subtle shifts and changes based on the needs of those who participate. Individuals are able to influence rituals because they are societal, not instinctual. Rules can be bent if necessary, and rituals adapt to changing societal structures, economic conditions, and advancements in technology. Rituals last by making allowances for circumstance: as circumstances change, the tools of the ritual do as well. Only the basic necessities endure: there are bowls found in archeological digs that date back thousands of years, and are the same sizes and shapes that we use every day to eat our oatmeal, or serve our spaghetti. The bowl is above all else useful, elegant and simple. What is found in the concave curve of the bowl is usually something nourishing and comforting. However, the bowl endures not out of ritual, but out of pure functional practicality. A bowl is an everyday object used for many types of food eaten regularly. As a functional artist, it is important to retain functionality and practicality while endeavoring to create vessels that push boundaries and challenge user’s imaginations. I would like my vessels to be valued for their use in everyday life. For a bowl or a dualsectioned lunch tray I created to become a part of someone’s daily breakfast or lunch ritual would fulfill the intent of the work. I strive to achieve originality through my functional vessels, recognizing that shape, design, and function all matter, and by creating unique shapes and referencing the human body with soft curves, dimples and bulges. 13
PRESENCE, AWARENESS, MINDFULNESS As members of a society and a nation, we have a lot to think about and accomplish everyday. Our list of responsibilities seems to extend on and on. Just as something gets checked off of the “to do” list, three more things are added on. With the advent of technological advances including the railroad, automobile, cell phones, and the Internet, our lives have sped up. Instead of having more time to relax with our family and friends, we are perpetually expected to accomplish more with the hours in our day. All of this buzzing about, and what we like to call “multi-tasking” causes us to be in a constant cloud of mindless action. Why is it that we have vivid memories of specific moments during vacations we have taken? Closing my eyes, I can recall the smell of the Costa Rican rainforest, the sight of lush green foliage, the damp humidity against my skin, and my heart pounding in my chest as I repelled down a two hundred foot canyon. I remember sitting on a hard wooden bench in a small wood paneled restaurant in Kecskemet, Hungary eating a cold sour cherry soup. I remember being sixteen years old in Granada, Spain, marveling at the intricate tile work and architecture at the Alhambra. I believe that these vivid memories endure because during these moments, I was completely mindful, present and aware. I was truly in the moment, soaking in every last detail of the experience.
The difficulty is in finding ways to remain mindful in the mundane practices of everyday life. According to Dr. Ellen J. Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University, and author of Mindfulness, there are three key qualities to achieve a mindful state of being.16 First, Langer suggests that by creating new categories in our minds, we pay attention to the situation and context. This kind of mindful thinking allows us to consider possibilities that would not have occurred to us otherwise; many options and alternatives are revealed, possibly making tasks more efficient, and allowing compromise in situations of conflict.17 It is my goal, that the users of my pottery are asked to create new categories when thinking about different ways they can use vessels with multiple compartments and sections, perhaps causing them to create new and interesting food pairings, or to approach the way they eat a particular food differently. Welcoming new information is a second way to remain mindful; in fact, a lack of new information, or sensory deprivation, can be harmful and cause psychological problems. Also, if you are exposed to repeated patterns of the same stimulus, your sensory system will shut down, because it is not receiving any new information. Being open to new information sets up a continuous feedback loop that allows relationships of all kinds to stay in balance.18 The soft, curvaceous surfaces, spiraling ridges, dimples, and peaks awaken the users’ senses, giving them new, but simultaneously familiar information, allowing them to mindfully appreciate the nourishment that sustains them. The mundane use of conventional, predictable industrial wares exacerbates mindless eating: serving as a purely functional, but not original or particularly aesthetic dining experience. Finally, openness to many different points of view contributes to mindful thinking. If we cling to our own point of 15
view, we may be blind to the affect it has on others, but if we are able to view situations and our own words and actions from many different perspectives, we might better understand the consequences, and the response given by others. When I conceptualize and create my vessels, I usually have a specific food in mind and a specific function for how they should operate. I am always inspired when I share that work with others and they tell me about how they would use that same vessel: there seems to be a multitude of interpretations and variations in how each individual would use the same vessel.
THE VESSEL AS METAPHOR The functional porcelain vessels that I create reference the human body’s natural curves, dimples and bulges. The metaphor of relating the body to the vessel is nothing new: anthropomorphic terms are used when you first learn how to create vessels, forming the lip, neck, shoulder, waist, belly and foot.19 My work extends the somatic suggestion by altering the vessels to achieve a flesh-like softness, and include the addition of belly buttons, breast forms and the suggestion of a rib cage. The smooth satin glaze on the exterior of many of my vessels references the soft texture of skin, and interacting with these vessels subconsciously becomes a more intimate experience because of these characteristics. Wet-glossy glazes fill the interiors of the vessels, and areas of colorful gloss “spill over” onto the satin exteriors, emulating the luscious feeling of water on the skin. We can think of our bodies as vessels: they contain our physical makeup of flesh, blood and bone, and they also contain the ethereal aspects of ourselves: our souls, beliefs and personalities. We nourish our physical bodies, or vessels, by ingesting food and water which our body turns into energy and nutrients, and we nourish our ethereal bodies by pursuing our passions, learning about interesting topics, and forging enriching relationships with others. Food, drink, and plants are so central to our daily lives, so charged with emotions of self-gratification, nurturance, and relationship to other human beings, that the containers associated with them will always be objects of symbolic power.20 17
EXHIBITION BODY OF WORK This exhibition will be located in the Schmidt Center Gallery on Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus. It will be on display from April 4 through May 24, 2013. The work incorporates six services for two for six specific meals and each service was designed and glazed with particular foods in mind. I chose to create six services because I wanted to use the traditional meal times of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and three foil services for more celebratory special occasions, including afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Each service is titled with the food that would be contained in each vessel. The breakfast service includes eggcups with trays, large mugs, bowls, a berry colander, and a segmented tray. The title of the service is Soft-boiled eggs, toasted brioche soldiers, oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, slivered almonds, blueberries, tea. I chose a subtle muted blue color against an off-white background for this service to signify the calm and quiet of a morning breakfast ritual. This would be a meal enjoyed after just waking up, and easing into the start of the day. The rhythmic undulation of the rims of the trays is echoed in the spiral design in blue glaze along the interior. The egg-cup is placed to the left, leaving room for the bread along the trays.
Small bowls for oatmeal sit adjacent to each of the trays, each with a fingerprint indentation, signifying the belly button of the human form, but also functioning as a place to grip the bowl as a spoon is dipped into the oatmeal. The tray with three segments, meant for holding the brown sugar, cinnamon, and slivered almonds, is rounded at the bottom, allowing the vessel to gently rock when the user interacts with it. The soft, breast-like handles with dimples are visually and tactilely sensual, and invite touch as the handles for the vessel.
The tall mugs are large capacity, satisfactory for those who enjoy large cups of tea or coffee in the mornings. They feature dimples at their plump bellies with dripping glaze on their surfaces.
The colander and accompanying saucer undulates in three waves. The open shape and perforations maximize exposure to the air, ensuring the berries won’t become waterlogged.
The lunch service includes soup and salad trays, tumblers, a serving vessel, a soup tureen, and a breadbasket. The title is Carrot-ginger soup, turmeric and cumin spiced quinoa salad with spinach, peppers, zucchini and sultanas, whole grain rolls, iced green tea. The soup and salad trays sit atop four triangular feet and are completed with breast like handles. They have two compartments with a ceramic wall separating them, keeping the soup and quinoa sections separated. This lunch service features a light green color scheme, serving as a contrast to the orange colored soup, and golden yellow quinoa salad, and signifying freshness.
The kidney shaped serving vessel was created for the quinoa salad. The breast shaped handles appear again on this vessel, creating a functional place to grip and carry the serving dish.
The soup tureen has an undulating rim, and rounded shape and rhythmically placed dimples. The breast-like handles allow the user to carry the dish without touching 22
the warm exterior. A notch is removed from the lid for a soup ladle to rest. The large, bulbous knob visually completes the piece as a functional vehicle for removing the lid.
The breadbasket is a bowl shape with a folded, undulating rim, and indentations. The open shape allows rolls to be piled high, and softness of the fold invites users to reach for this vessel.
The tumblers, used for holding the iced green tea, have spiraling ridges with groves for the fingers to rest. Green glaze mimics the shape of the ridges, spiraling up the sides of the tumbler. The dinner service includes artichoke plates, dinner plates, tumblers, and serving platters. The title is Steamed artichokes, Florida red snapper roasted with paprika, garlic, lemon, red pepper, and parsley, braised garlicky kale, and roasted paprika spiced fingerling potatoes. The undulating artichoke plates have a channel along one side, allowing for the addition of a dipping sauce for the tender leaves. Visually, the layering effect of the undulating rims of the artichoke plates sitting atop the dinner plates mimic the shapes of the artichoke itself.
The large serving platter is meant for the red snapper, and includes breast-like handles with dimples that drip with a purple glaze. The elongated shape of this vessel makes it especially suitable for serving fish, and the richness and subtle blending of the purple drips add interest to the surfaces and accentuate the forms. 24
This second kidney shaped serving platter, meant for the fingerling potatoes, is similar to the one in the lunch service, but is glazed with purple drips. Arranged on the table, the handle of the large serving platter seems to nest in the interior groove of the kidney shaped vessel.
Finally, this bowl with a spiraling ridge is meant for holding the braised kale. The glossy and matte surfaces provide a sensual variation in textures as the user interacts with it.
The afternoon tea service includes small plates, teacups and saucers, a teapot, creamer, and sugar bowl, a tiered tray, and a vessel for fresh clotted cream. The title is Earl Grey tea, finger sandwiches, scones, petits fours, clotted cream. The teapot has a lush, bulbous form, and a belly button with a copper green drip emerging from it. The handle arches over the form, adding a round energy to the piece and the wavy foot rim creates interesting shadows.
The creamer is a rounded, squat vessel with a split rim that is joined at one-inch intervals, creating a more interesting undulation. Afternoon tea is a festive and less common meal, and this vessel’s added embellishments on both the rim, and the shape of the handle speak to the significance of the occasion. The sugar bowl is plump and round, and has a dimple similar to the teapot.
The vessel for clotted cream is a playful dish, with a lot of personality. The three feet each have a crease down the center, providing a place for glaze to drip.
The three tiered tray adds dramatic height and a celebratory mood to this service. The swirling copper glaze winds its way around the plates and up the risers and pools in the undulating finial at the top.
Cups and saucers complete this service. The short, shallow cups contain a belly button with dripping glaze, and the undulating rims of the saucers have areas of shiny copper glaze.
The hors d’oeuvres service includes small plates and various segmented trays. The service is titled An array of Moroccan salads: leeks, beets with cumin and paprika, red pepper sauce, carrots, eggplant, green olives, hummus. This tray with four segments holds small portions of four different Moroccan salads. I chose to mix the glaze palate of this service, to emulate the variety of choices served in the vessels. The mix-and-match approach to this service adds to the visual stimulation and excitement of trying lots of different flavors. The soft undulation of the rims and wet dripping glazes provide inviting places for brightly colored red, orange, and green Moroccan salads.
This dual-segmented tray could hold two different salads that contrast in color. The subtle dripping green glaze sensually lurks on the rims and the interiors of the vessel.
Three petals and a swirling blue glaze form the plates for this service.
The dessert service includes goblets with saucers, segmented trays, and espresso cups and saucers. The title is Vanilla mascarpone cream with DIY toppings: blueberries, raspberries, fresh figs, pistachio nuts, almond biscotti crumbles, dark chocolate shavings, espresso. The open shapes of the dessert goblets invite nourishment.
The six segmented tray holds the condiments for the mascarpone cream. The shapes of the individual segments are repeated throughout this body of work. The eye travels around the flowing rims and continues into space at the points.
Finally, the small espresso cups are dimpled for a finger to grip the cup. The saucers undulate with dripping glazes.
This service is sculptural and celebratory, because dessert provides nourishment to the senses and the soul. I hope that the viewers interact with the work by reading the title and imagining which foods they would put in each vessel, and who they would like to share each meal with.
CASE STUDIES By observing my functional ceramics in use, I have been able to conduct some casual research. Some of my questions prior to observation included: what is the effectiveness of the vessel’s function? Is the vessel compatible with its intended food practically and aesthetically? What is the user’s level of comfort/satisfaction in using the vessel? Does the user use (or want to use) the vessel the way it is intended, or not, and does that matter? Are the users mindfully enjoying the food that they are eating from the vessel, and how could I tell? What are some of the comments of the users regarding the vessel? As someone who is not a trained sociologist, nor an expert on mindfulness experimentation, I am only able to approach this research as an artist and a regular person, observing others. The observations that I make are not concrete scientific evidence, but rather my own interpretations of what I notice. The first case study included two women eating an artichoke on an artichoke plate resting atop a dinner plate. One of these women was a seasoned artichoke eater, and the other had never encountered a whole artichoke. The artichoke plate I designed includes a center dish with an undulating rim, and an attached channel that runs along one side of the plate. I had originally intended that channel to be a place to tuck away already eaten leaves, however when I observed the women (who were not given any prior information,) 34
they ate the artichoke leaves and placed them on the dinner plate, not in the channel. They slid the artichoke plate back as they needed more and more room on the dinner plate for the discarded leaves. One of them suggested that the channel might be used for a dipping sauce. I agree that the channel is too small to fit the discarded leaves, and would be better suited for a dipping sauce. When I make these vessels in the future, I can conceive of two solutions: I could either keep the design the same and add a companion vessel for holding the discarded leaves, or I could create a vessel that has a larger channel for the discarded leaves (which would be oriented at the “back” of the vessel,) and a smaller, narrower channel for sauce which would be placed closest to the user. Figure 1: Image of half eaten artichoke on artichoke plate.
The first woman who engaged in eating the artichoke, and was familiar with the practice, said that the vessel was “inviting and curvaceous, just like the artichoke. It’s almost blossoming.” The second woman, who had never experienced eating an artichoke 35
said that she would use the like to use vessel for chips and dip. The first woman also suggested that the vessel could be used for shrimp or oysters with coordinating dipping sauces. I was surprised, and pleased by this discussion. The women (unprompted) seemed to be using mindfulness techniques, including creating new categories by coming up with different uses for the vessel, and they were open to new information, imagining each of the foods in the vessel that was suggested by one another. I was satisfied that the women suggested a desire for alternate use. Even though I create my vessels with specific foods in mind, I am aware that we each have our own unique aesthetics, eating habits, and likes and dislikes. I encourage the individuality that comes with choosing a handmade vessel, and deciding how it will be used. The second case study conducted was a very different scenario. It was the Jewish Passover holiday, and we had prepared our usual feast for eighteen guests. I decided to test my serving dishes in a buffet-style meal. After the matzo-ball soup, our second course is always an array of Moroccan salads. I put the salads in my vessels and observed the interaction. I was not surprised by the result: our guests had just sat through the Seder (a prayer service) and were eager to eat. Also, because there were many guests, there was some pressure to serve oneself quickly in order to make room for those waiting to walk up to the table. I observed the guests spooning the salads onto their plate: many made comments about the unique shapes or said that the wares were beautiful, but the interactions were brief and purely functional. I hypothesize that there would have been more response if the salads were passed around the table and moved from hand to hand: 36
they would have felt the undulations, the weight of the pots, and the satin and glossy surfaces and would have likely made a larger impact on the users.
Figure 2: Guests serving themselves Moroccan salads buffet style at Passover
TECHNIQUES AND PROCESSES All of the work in this exhibition is made using similar processes and techniques. I use the number 550 porcelain from Laguna Clay Company. I start by wedging the porcelain clay to align the clay particles and rid the clay from any air pockets. If I am making multiple vessels of the same form, I then weigh out separate balls of clay to ensure that the pieces will all be similar in size. I then throw and alter the forms on the wheel. This is the most sensual component of creating the forms: the smooth, wet clay slides through my fingers, allowing me to pull up walls and create spiraling lines. I collar in the tops of some of the vessels, trapping air within so that they seem rotund and inflated. Simple alterations, such as pushing a thumb into the side of a vessel to create an indentation, or “belly button” can be done while the clay is still wet, and other alterations are done later, at the stage when the clay is leather hard. Most of the work is done at this leather hard stage. Many of my vessels are bisected and put back together horizontally to create long tray forms and multiple compartmented forms. Conical feet and handles are separately thrown and then attached. Some vessels are turned upside-down on the wheel and trimmed, and others are not. After the form is complete, I tightly wrap the work in plastic, and allow it to dry very slowly, over a period of a few weeks, depending on the size of the work, 38
periodically checking it to make sure cracks are avoided. Once the work is completely bone dry, I put it into the bisque firing. This first firing hardens and chemically transforms the clay, allowing it to be ready for the application of glaze material. In order to achieve the sensual effect of changes from glossy to satin textures, I apply a glossy glaze on the interior, and a satin glaze on the exterior. I then use a brush to apply sections of colorful glossy glaze to the exterior of the work, adding variation in color and texture. After the glaze has been applied, the work returns to the electric kiln, and is fired to witness cone 9, or roughly 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are some of the glaze recipes used in my work: Rick Haynes Satin Glaze
Andy Martin Showsaver
Whiting Flint Nepheline Syenite Talc Dolomite Bentonite
Frit 3110 Nepheline Syenite Strontium Barium Wollastonite Gerstley Borate OM4 Flint
8 30 45 7 10 3
Coleman's Gloss Cornish Stone Whiting Dolomite EPK Flint Zircopax
35 15 10 15 20 5
5.4 27.1 10.8 14.4 2.2 4 5.5 34.4
ARTISTIC INFLUENCES Artistic influences include Gwendolyn Yoppolo, Martha Grover, Nick Joerling, and Chris Gustin. Yoppolo describes her vessels as intimate objects: “A service designed for a dining ritual can shift the perceptual horizons through which we comprehend food as nourishment, and nourishment as relationship.”21 I am attracted to the soft, touchable matte glazes and the quiet, smooth gesture of her forms. The soft visual, tactile, and sensual quality in her work is something I hope to achieve with mine. Lines that are curvaceous and flow through space tend to bring vessels to life, and I hope that my work achieves that as well. Grover references flowers and movement with her organic, fluid forms. She is influenced by the imagery of dancers moving effortlessly across the floor. As a dancer and yogi, movement and fluidity is very important to me, and I would like my work to reflect those facets. Her undulations are influential in the way that I approach the softness of the clay when it is freshly thrown and still very flexible. I manipulate the rims and bellies of my vessels to express movement and reference the human form. The feet of my vessels are also very important to my work: I either undulate the foot ring, or place the vessel up on three or four feet. Grover also manipulates the feet of her vessels to create interesting shadows under her pieces, and to bring a visual lightness to her work.
Joerling’s functional pottery makes “good use of the constraints of utility and pushes against those boundaries too.”22 It is important for my work to be functional and inviting to the user, but I am inspired by Joerling’s idea of taking a sculptural approach to making functional work and incorporating sensuality into the forms. I admire his effortless, whimsical, and sensual aesthetic, and hope to achieve my own version of that in my own pursuits. I tend to work more tightly and neatly when making, and I would like to achieve the slightly more carefree approach to making. Joerling’s shapes are fearlessly assembled, and no matter how complicated, never appear forced or unnatural. Joerling’s work is often thrown in parts and then assembled, which is similar to my way of working. Gustin’s pottery references the human figure and invites touch. He manipulates his forms around the invisible air held within, “constraining it, enclosing it, or letting it expand and swell.”23 I am interested in manipulating my forms by utilizing the air within them, and creating touchable, lush surfaces. His work references the spines, bellies, and hips of the human form in subtle, but powerful ways. The glazes on his forms drip and run, creating sensuality and depth. I hope that my work conveys some of these ideas. The dripping glazes I use are decidedly less extreme than Gustin’s because my work must be inviting to use, but I believe that the sensuality is maintained.
RAMIFICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH Over the past few months, new discoveries have been made regarding different directions my work could take. There are many unexplored aspects of my work that I hope to address with future projects. As I continue to experiment with the reactions my work evokes, I am using the sociological concept of participant observer research. I am involved with the interactions, but I am also observing and gathering data. I would like to pioneer a project in which I create a unique vessel, and use it in the way I initially intended, and then give it to someone and they would photograph and write about how they used it, and in turn they would give it to someone else, etc. It would be interesting to discover all of the various ways the same vessel could be utilized and it would speak to the creativity and diversity of the individual user. At the end of the project, all of the photographs and written accounts would be collected and posted using social media, and people would be able to witness the many interpretations of the users. Hopefully, it would open people’s minds to new ideas and ways of thinking, and contribute to a more mindful approach to eating. I would also like to explore ways in which I could discuss ethical eating behaviors with my work. Local food sourcing, environmentally friendly farming practices, and awareness about the sources of the food that we eat everyday are all ideas that are important to my thinking in creating functional work. Promoting mindfulness while 42
eating involves being mindful about what you are eating, and how it arrived on your plate. I am also interested in exploring how my functional work might be more accessible to people across culture, gender, and socioeconomic status. It would be interesting to bring my work into situations that are not a part of my everyday life. For example, I may bring some pieces to a homeless shelter and observe reactions to them. There are many different opportunities for my work to evolve as a result of these projects. I am eager to continue my explorations beyond the realm of this investigation.
PLATES Plate 1: Installation View
Plate 2: Installation View
Plate 3: Installation View
Plate 4: Installation View, Breakfast Service
Plate 5: Installation View, Lunch Service
Plate 6: Installation View, Tea Service
Plate 7: Installation View, Hors d'oeuvres Service
Plate 8: Installation View, Dinner Service
Plate 9: Installation View, Dessert Service
He Li, Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey. (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1996), 54 2 Ibid., 55 3 Ibid., 134 4 Emmanuel Cooper, 10,000 Years of Pottery. (London: The British Museum Press, 2010), 232 5 Ibid., 240 6 Clary Illian, A Potter’s Workbook. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999), 100 7 Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners (New York: Penguin Books, 1992), 1-2. 8 Ibid., 2 9 Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988), 4 10 Visser, The Rituals of Dinner, 3 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., 18 13 Ibid. 14 Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (New York: Random House, 1998), location 2661-73 15 Visser, The Rituals of Dinner, 19 16 Ellen J. Langer, Mindfulness (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1989), 62 17 Ibid., 65 18 Ibid., 68 19 Philip Rawson, Ceramics. (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), 100 20 Illian, A Potter’s Workbook, 106 21 Gwendolyn Yoppolo. Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.gwendolynyoppolo.com/statement.html 22 Nicholas Joerling. Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://penlandpottery.com/pages/bruns-joerling-studios.php 23 Chris Gustin. (2000). Studio Pottery. Retrieved from http://gustinceramics.com/about/statement.html
BIBLIOGRAPHY Cooper, Emmanuel. 10,000 Years of Pottery. London: The British Museum Press, 2010. Gustin, Chris. “Studio Pottery.” Chris Gustin. Accessed 2013. http://gustinceramics.com/about/statement.html Illian, Clary. A Potter’s Workbook. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999. Joerling, Nicholas. . “Artist Statement.” Nicholas Joerling. Accessed 2013. http://penlandpottery.com/pages/bruns-joerling-studios.php Langer, Ellen J. Mindfulness. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1989. Li, He. Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1996. Rawson, Philip. Ceramics. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984. Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. New York: Random House, 1998. Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988. Visser, Margaret. The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners. New York: Penguin Books, 1992. Yoppolo, Gwendolyn. “Artist Statement.” Gwendolyn Yoppolo. Accessed 2013. http://www.gwendolynyoppolo.com/statement.html.