Monday, October 31, 2011

midwestern-american-english-with-a-drawl-more-like-a-slur potter

i was reading dogen (the guy who brought the first tea bowl from china to japan) and studying soto zen buddhism around the time i decided to pursue art as a life. needless to say, i wanted to make japanese pots. so i started making pots that looked like the ones i'd seen in books or at museums or SOFA in chicago. i was more into the 'practice' of making a bowl or a cup. making multiples of everything. meditating on the practice of making a bowl. cutting a foot. glazing. and firing. trying to be simple in my approach and thoughtful in my gestures. however, i was trying to be something i was not.

four stoneware bowls with square-cut foot. shino and oribe glaze, 2007
stoneware tea set in shino, 2007

as an undergraduate i read George Lindbeck as a part of a religion class. his basic (paraphrased) premise is that culture and language cannot be separated. for example: i, as a midwestern-american-english-with-a-drawl-more-like-a-slur potter, cannot make a chawan because i do not speak japanese nor do i come from the culture that produced the works i admire. bummer. it made me think about what a midwestern-american-english-with-a-drawl-more-like-a-slur cup looks like. we don't have a tea ceremony. no need for a tea bowl, except to look pretty on the mantle with the wooden box behind it, displayed proudly. we typically buy cheap designed-for-the-masses, chinese made dishes from wal-mart. buying the pretty pattern and trusting it not to have lead in the enamel painting. i gave up on the idea of trying to make a chawan. but not on the ideas that spawned the chawan. the simple notion of being aware enough to be affected.

series of Pittsburgh mugs (available here)
relief-print porcelain mugs, 2011

i drink coffee every morning. black as hell. and made in a rather gross mr. coffee. but i drink it out of a cool mug. that's as important to me as the coffee in the mug. i hate drinking from a wal-mart mug. it's just dull. and i don't like dull shit. and because drinking coffee is such a ritual part of my life, i think that the mug should likewise be thought of as a ritual vessel, like a chawan, but in the form of a midwestern-american-english-with-a-drawl-more-like-a-slur coffee mug.

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