1. Last month when I was in Montreal I had the chance to visit several of my ceramic pieces that I had given to my daughter (I was visiting her too) and one of them is the bowl labelled “1″ above. This was the only bowl of this design I had made and I was happy to discover that I still love its shape, its contrasting textures and its light weight. When I made the bowl I was thinking it would be a prototype that would not work out as planned but that would help me learn how to make a large, lightweight bowl using textures, so I worked quickly and loosely. To my surprise, the whole thing came together and stayed together and made me happy.
2. Last week, in the studio, I remembered the bowl from Montreal and I made another one. As with the first version, I used an old wok as a drape mould. I rolled a 1/8-inch thick slab of porcelain clay on an old piece of cotton sheeting (cotton sheeting has no texture of its own), textured it with a piece of fishnet, then laid the sheet and the slab into the wok. The sheeting allows me to move the slab back and forth until it is centered in the wok, and the wok gives me a nice rounded bottom that I may or may not flatten out a bit so the bowl sits steady (I prefer bowls with rounded bottoms that rock slightly but others find this unnerving). I added an untextured rim that I joined tightly to the inside of the bowl and added a couple of buttons on the outside. Later, when the bowl was leatherhard, I took it out of the wok and smoothed the outside join.
3. While I was making bowl #2 I remembered that one summer, many years ago, when I was handbuilding at my summer cabin, I made a similar bowl using a wok that I borrowed from my neighbour there. I used a slab that was about 1/4-inch thick and as I had not yet entered the realm of texture heaven, I smoothed all the surfaces. This bowl is made out of a utilitarian brown clay, is much heavier than the newer models and has an entirely different aesthetic but, at least at the moment, it is sitting in a place of honour in the center of a large coffee table that I have just inherited from my mother.
When I revisit old forms (usually unintentionally) and apply new techniques and designs to them, I realize that my clay work is progressing, but on a path that circles around and doubles back on itself and then moves forward on a slightly different trajectory and for the few moments that I spend realizing this, I know I’m on the right track.