clay, wood and beauty

I think there’s a great affinity between ceramics and wood. I treated myself after a recent commission to this beautiful piece by local potter, Paul Bradley.  It’s very refined and yet has a natural coarseness to the surface and obviously a seed-like inspiration to the form; a combination of the natural and refined that I aspire to in my own work.

You can see it below displayed on the Kachemak Bay table which itself combines oiled and untreated wood  – the natural and the refined – and which I always envisaged as a place for special objects.

When I was making the Dartmoor Stream cabinet I also imagined a ceramic pot behind that gentle opening in the doors – a hint and an invitation to explore what was inside.

I hope one day to have a joint commission with a potter so that we could relate the forms of the clay and wood in a truly integrated way… so that the piece goes beyond a pot on a stand or a cabinet with pots in it.

But there’s something else about the aesthetics of hand made ceramics that I feel I can learn from.  No-one wants a handmade pot that looks like a machine-made piece.  We want the evidence of the hand in the making.  And there is always an element of surprise and uncontrolledness in the glazes.  Like watercolours, you have to let them do their own thing.  I believe that the Japanese ideal of true beauty in ceramics includes the unforeseen… the happy accident.

I’m not sure whether I’ve yet found the equivalent in my own work.  Yesterday, as I test-fitted the dovetails on a Yew jewellery box, tiny cracks started appearing in the wood.  I failed to see this as a happy accident….just a waste of all the consideration that went into the choice, arrangement, and preparation of those pieces of wood, and the potential abandonment of what looked like being a very lovely box.

But I know that I hope to find a way beyond the commonplace, over-controlled woodworking – the machine aesthetic of the absolutely flat.  I’m not after rustic or coarsely made.  I want refinement with naturalness, control with freedom, yin with yang…..  Maybe it’s something yet to achieve, or maybe it’s something already in my work that I have  yet to see properly.  I am a human being, not a machine, after all.

Thank you for the inspiration, Paul.

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