Friday, February 20, 2009

Enough hockey, MORE POTTERY!

Let's talk about feet.

Last night I was helping teach a class on trimming. It really made me much more aware of how much effort (and time) I put into trimming feet. I was explaining that designing feet for pots was sort of like designing shoes to compliment an outfit. Part of the process is purely functional, but part of it is definitely style. Some of my best friends mock my choice in footware... I wear Crocs. BUT they feel great. I wouldn't be caught dead in them at a wedding though. So, the outfit determines the shoes. I think if I could find/afford them, I would wear Keens more often. I just destroy shoes in the studio.

So... looking at feet on pots....

The things I try to see:
How does the foot relate to the floor of the pot?
How does the radius of the foot relate to the lip of the pot?
What functional constraints are we dealing with?
Does this pot even need a foot?
What would the WRONG foot be?
How do I want someone to feel when they turn this pot over?

I think as potters go from being beginners to starting to develop a style, there is this assumption that one foot will suit all their work. Sure. It just looks like wearing the same shoes to every venue. Sneakers look funny in the snow or at a formal dance. Pots are the same way. Some pots DEMAND certain foot treatment.

One of the things I have been trying to work through in my mind (haven't even come close to putting thoughts to clay yet) the idea of altering the foot during the trimming/throwing process. I have done precious few thrown feet. I think I may be at that point where I need to branch away from the strictly trimmed foot. New dance to learn!


Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,
I often think I spend too much time trimming feet but I still go ahead because the right choice is the right choice. Although there is always the issue of stability, a smaller foot seems to help a bowl defy gravity in a way and I love that look. The foot in the picture you posted seems to be absolutely the right foot for that pot(but what do I know?). BTW... I grew up there in upstate New York.

Alex Solla said...

Afternoon Jim-

Finding the right foot for the pot is tough. Sometimes I suggest that folks find a foot they enjoy making, and then learn to make pots that fit that foot. I also love showing students pots upside down. Sometimes they think the pot is just great till it gets flipped over. Then they are either pleasantly surprised or grossed out, or disappointed.

Whereabouts in upstate did you grow up? If you find yourself back up this way, stop in. We'd love to visit a spell.

Carter said...

I had an instructive experience the other week. A bunch of us, professional potters and students, had gotten together to throw 350 bowls as a donation to the 'empty bowls' fundraiser for our local food bank. We had all donated our time to throw the bowls, but few of the professionals had the time to come back and trim them. The result was that no single pot ended up with the particular foot the artist might have intended on his/her own. What a revelation such an exercise is! It is amazing how an artist's formula usually says more about the underlying preconceptions than the range of what actually works. But of course the artist usually has proprietary responsibility for what decisions get made, so it is no wonder it usually reflects a narrow range. Nothing wrong with that, just interesting. (The last wedding I went to was on a beach in Jamaica and I was barefoot. I was also the best man!)

Alex Solla said...

We too did an empty bowls even here in Ithaca last fall. It was amazing how everyone just jumped ship once the bowls were thrown. Cary Joseph was in charge of the event, and he ended up trimming bowls for the better part of a day. I dont think we came ANYWHERE near 350 bowls. That is a great turnout!

Newfoundout Potter said...

Hi Alex - realy like your comments on feet - I think I will print them out and put them up at our Guild, if that is OK with you. I think you can usually tell if a person has had formal pottery training by their feet and rims. Both tend to be weak, especially the feet. As one who is primarily self taught I am trying hard to make good feet.
Eva Gallagher Deep River, Ontario

Alex Solla said...

Howdy Eva-

By all means, feel free to use any comments from our blog. If it can help anyone in your guild, go for it!

Next week I am hoping to add some more to the topic as we start talking about feet that fail. Whether for design reasons, functional reasons, or just dichotomies... we'll be dissecting feet. Should be fun!