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THE INTIMACY OF POTTERY

Everyone has a favorite cup, though most people don’t really give it a second thought. Whether you drink coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or milk , when you reach into the cabinet full of assorted cups and mugs, you make a choice. The choice might be based on color, size, texture of the glaze, or sentimental value, but generally it will have more to do with  the overall feeling of  the cup.

A cup is an intimate object that delivers nour­ishment to your body. I probably sold several hundred cups before it dawned on me that I was making and selling objects with the potential of so much intimacy.

 

Wood-fired cup by Peter Callas

 

My favorite cup was made by Peter Callas, a wonderful ceramic artist known for his wood firing and powerful ceramic sculptures with whom I studied for years. It is wood-fired with no handles and deep throwing rings that spiral upward as if the cup were still rotating on the wheel.

It fits perfectly in my hand. The surface is soft and smooth, but not glassy, because the only glaze it has is from the wood ash that melted on the surface during firing in an anagama kiln. The lip has a smooth, inverted-V shape that fits the shape of my mouth very comfortably when I take a drink. The wall thickness is perfect, and I know my coffee or tea is at the perfect drinking temperature when I can hold the cup without burning my fingers.

Credit: Robert Schroeder

 

When you make useful objects from clay, I hope some of your values and aesthetics will come through in the work. These preferences will define your creative efforts and develop your personal style.

— Jeff Zamek

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