Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

Conversations at the Log #1.5

This morning, early in the studio I was caught without my tape recorder. My second edition of “Conversations at the Log” is already recorded and transcribed, but this was such an interesting conversation. I knew I would need to try to reconstruct it and at least recall the high points. Please understand the conversation below is paraphrased. And by its very nature, paraphrasing can only attempt to capture the ephemeral nature of early morning candor.

The point at which I would have pressed play on the recorder was when we were admiring recent rewards from a kiln. There were some fairly lovely pitchers sitting on the top of a table…

“Don’t you just love a good pitcher?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do.”

“Yeah, these are not like some pitchers. You can get your hand down into them and clean them.”

“Is that what makes a good pitcher?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Why don’t you just get a bottle brush? Why can’t the form dictate the function?”

“Well it can, but I’m not going to that much trouble for a pitcher! I already do it for Tara Wilson’s tumblers. Those are sweet.”

“Hmmm, this is interesting. I’ve only heard men make this complaint and it seems I’ve heard it many times. I wonder if there is some larger thing going on here. Are men more pre-disposed to voicing their discomfort and women socialized to accept and adapt? [of course] Women have been washing dishes a lot longer than men and maybe a bottle brush doesn’t seem like such a big compromise?”

“Maybe, but that’s not the only thing that makes a good pitcher. At least these pitchers are trying to BE pitchers. They hold more than one cup of water. I hate those pitchers that only hold one or two cups of water. ‘Here, I’m drinking with myself.’ ”

“You sound the same as the last conversation I had about pitchers. You are making a distinction between functional work and sculptures of functional work?”

“Yeah, there are so many people making pitchers that really could care less about whether or not they offer practical functionality. “

At this point, it’s hard to ignore the conversant is standing next to a cart full of functional work that was purposefully cranked out in a slap-dash manner. There are cups with anti-feet, roughly hewed bowls and Flinstonesque buckets a plenty.

“Well yeah, but this isn’t trying to be good function. This is poking at function. Look at Chuck Hindes.”

We’ll leave that connection hanging there in the ether and turn to the work on the cart, which is actually pretty awesome. I find the work delightful and can see the intentional purpose in the marks made, in the handles. There is too often a subtle purpose in the objects stored there, especially when I take them in as a collective. I ask if I can use one to see if I actually like drinking out of a sculpture or if the novelty wears off after a few days.

“Sure, pick one out and see how it works. You could even have it if you wanted it.”

“How would you show these?”

“What do you mean?”

“In an exhibition, how would you display them? Do you see them as an installation or would you just go with standard pedestal presentation?”

“I dunno. Standard pedestals I guess. I really just want to show my sculptures, but pots make money,” smiles.

“You’ve spent an awful lot of time cranking these out for them to just be about money.”

Somewhere in here we addressed the fact that the pieces would need to be seen in a collective state for a viewer to really buy-in to the intent. Individually the point might get lost especially when nestled among straight-forward, pots with refined functionality.

“Yeah, but people like pots. I dunno, I think I’m just going to let them sit here for a while-

“and let it stew?”

-yeah. I need to not think about it for bit, just hide them in a corner.”

There is a pause as we go to fill our cups. Mine fills fine and I delight in the ridiculousness of the form and the purposefulness of the handle. It strikes me that I have to be very careful about lifting it to my mouth because the rim has high and low spots and a spill is inevitable if I don’t pay attention. Oh, how many potter’s statements talk about wanting to cause the user to slow, to be mindful of the moment shared, to commune in a never-ending collaboration with the user?

“Well, mine doesn’t work,” is yelled across the studio.

“What do you mean?”

“I poured the coffee in and it hit the bottom of the cup and went right up the wall and out the other side.”

“You made a roller coaster for coffee?”


“Cool. Well maybe your cup just dictates a slower pour than others.”

That summed up the first part of the conversation. The second half got into territory about ceramic and craft and the inherent “how-to” conversation locked inside the field, even when work gets taken to a new level. I don’t think I’m going to be able to reconstruct it without a revisit, but I will have my recorder ready then.