Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Burping Glazes, or the Perfect Nature of Imperfection

Why isn’t the band of glaze color perfectly even around the rims of my mugs and bowls?

When I put a band of color on for contrast at the rim, why does it waver and speckle? Why isn’t it a precise, clean, perfect, (come on, anal) line? Commercial mugs and bowls have perfect lines. Is my mug or bowl inferior?

It all starts with how I apply the glaze. When it comes time to glaze the nekkit once-fired pots, I don’t usually sit there with a little bitty brush and make painstaking decorations. I turn the piece over and dip it right into the 4-gallon bucket of wet glaze. Or, if it is too big for the bucket, I pour the glaze all over it. Sometimes I glaze the inside one color and the outside another. Or I dip the piece all at once, inside and out both, in one practiced dunk, and when the thirsty pottery has absorbed all the water out of the glaze and dried again, I may dip it back, just the rim, in another bucket of a different glaze color.

This is where imperfection rears its juvenile delinquent head.

I admit it. I’m imperfect. I can’t hold every single pot exactly level when I glaze it. Sometimes I achieve this nirvana, but often the pots enter their glaze bath very slightly crooked. They sneer at my inability to see through the plastic bucket and tell if I’ve got the exact same depth of rim dipped all around, so that the air trapped inside the upside down bowl maintains even resistance all across, to the surface of the glaze in the bucket.

See, the pot wants to be dipped exactly straight, or it burps. Some air sneaks inside if it is held at even a slight angle, and a little spit-up of color hops past its allotted line in impish, messy glee.

Sometimes the son of a gun sucks up the little gush of air really fast, so that the bucket throws up a small spatter of droplets of the wet rim color right into the interior of the pot.
Beautiful clean white interior? Freckled now. Trying to scrape off the freckles is going to damage the glaze under them. So there they will remain.

Freckled, juvenile delinquent pots. They are a lesson in the beauty of imperfection.

Look at it this way. (I know I have to.) Every little speckle and out-of-the-ordinary overlap gives you something for your thumb to run over and your eye to contemplate. I know that you didn’t buy my mug or bowl because you wanted exactitude. You saw right away you weren’t getting that, even if you were getting something very nice. What you got was a piece of pottery nobody else had exactly, even if there were 10 similar ones at my show or in the gallery. No two are precisely identical. It’s the unpredictable thing, like glazes that burp in the bucket, that make each one of my production pots (multiples in a series) itself and not quite like another. It is the nature of humanness to be imperfect and I sure as heck am human when I make pottery.

Pottery making is a constant reminder of humility. Glazes will burp and spit despite me, or to spite me, maybe. It’s like life. There’s no such thing as perfect, and if you had it, it might feel a little wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely! That is exactly what I love about your stuff!
    Perfection is only accomplished by machines, and that would take away all the handmade love that makes your creations so attractive!