Form vs Surface

A few years back, when I was first starting out creating work full time, a really insightful individual at the studio asked me why I felt the need to create functional work. We had been discussing a series of mugs, these great wonky and tipsy mugs, I was creating at the time. Why did they need to be functional? Why couldn’t they be sculptural? Why was I limiting my art by boxing myself into the “functional” category?

That talk ranks up there as one of the more interesting conversations I’ve ever had about my work. That gentleman was more on point about the direction my work was going than I could have ever understood back then.

I’ve always considered myself a functional potter. I make things that people can use whether its for food, keys or plants, each piece can be utilized in some way. My work has not been, and probably will never be, traditional functional work. I’m not trying to compete with the perfection of a well thrown cereal bowl, but instead strive to create something as decorative as it is utilitarian.

There, right there was the crux of that conversation all those years ago. Form versus surface – which is more important to the piece of work being created? Some ceramic artists are masters at form, some at surface decoration and some, a rare few in my opinion, capture the holy grail of both in their work.

Its taken me all this time – four years to be exact – to come to the realization that I AM boxing myself in with my insistence on functionality.

Now before those of you who enjoy my work panic, I’m not planning to completely abandon functional work. I’m just starting to view my work from a different perspective. Its actually the right perspective – one that I’ve heard over and over these past years. Given the number of customer conversations I’ve had about how to hang my plates on walls you’d think I would have realized all of this sooner. Doh!

The most important aspect of my work in the texture design, the form that creates mystery in that design and the glazing that highlights it. Form, for me, is pretty much secondary. There is a lot of freedom in this realization as well as a focus on what really matters in the forms I do create to showcase my surfaces. I can’t wait to see where I go next with this in mind.

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