|Food for Thought
when selecting pottery.
A potters choice of clay is rather like the canvas of a painter. Porcelain and other
white clay bodies show little character of material, but are excellent for
revealing the color of the glaze.
Clay bodies with coarse materials are rather like the skin of an
sailor, showing the effects of heat and age.
The 16th century Japanese term, Wabi-Sabi,
is a word and idea, which is making its way into western
Wabi (things that are humble)
(things which gain beauty from age).
It is a way to see "the beauty in things as they are" imperfections and
However, it does not mean accepting poor workmanship.
A pot is the result of a moment in a potters life. The potter may make
the same shape year after year, but it will not be the same, it will always be
Pots have much to say "if" you learn how to listen. Subtle details speak volumes about
the process, if you take the
time to look.
On the bottom of wood fired and salt glazed pottery, you will likely see
bare "flash patterns". These "Wad Marks" are where a separator
was used to keep the pot from fusing to the kiln shelf.
The choice of wadding, the amount used, and the shape are
important considerations for the potter. The pot (below) shows the
wadding pattern on the bottom of a salt glazed vessel.
Robert has collected pottery from over 200 studio potters. Like many
people starting out, his early collecting was relegated to pots that
were functional and inexpensive. Now able to distinguish strength of form and complexities of
surface textures, the pots he selects have a wealth of information.
It is not necessary to collect pots made by a "big
name" potter to find wonderful pieces. The field is rich and great pots
are being made, if you take the time to look. Collecting is about process not
The experience of meeting the potter can make their pot priceless.
Parallel lines in a pots surface, are likely tracks left by the potters
fingertips. These "throwing marks" are as timeless as the potters wheel,
their spacing and depth speak of the potter's touch.
Unintentional, but priceless, marks on a pot where the "potters rib"
lifted can be read like a person's signature.
The mark is
specific to Robert Compton.
It is a stylization of the fountains
that were his primary work for over 20 years.
The potters chop is the equivalent of a trademark.
Most potters use their initials as their chop, some potters, like Robert,
uses a symbol as their identifying
crackle patterns are a roadmap of information about process. The
finer the pattern of crazing, the faster the pot was cooled.
Some potters spray their pots with water as they are cooling to
create a floral blush of superfine cracks.
A pot does not have to be
perfectly symmetrical to be beautiful. It is often the irregularities,
the wabi-sabi, that make a piece interesting and
add to its aesthetic value.
Pots with strength of form are often simple, and in
many ways the most difficult shape
for a potter to produce.
pottery, because it is not glazed and is fired at a low temperature, is
The colors on pit fired pottery are not fused in a glaze,
and could fade if placed in direct sunlight.
They can be thought of as you would a painting, but a painting
created by natural forces.
| String Cut
The absence of a foot ring, or turned
bottom, on a pot, may be
replaced by the timeless shell
The mark left behind from the cut off cord (a double twisted string)
This pattern is commonly found on pots that are "thrown off the hump",
a technique where the potter makes many small pots
from a single lump of clay.
Most of us came from a family where grandmothers
was the definition of good pottery.
Many people have been taught that "Bone
is the ultimate in fine pottery.
With regards to Bone China, generally speaking it is a
or the "decoration" that is being purchased.
The life of the pot was lost in the manufacturing process.
to celebrate more rustic qualities and set aside
our longing for perfection.
Robert Compton Pottery
2662 North 116 Road, Bristol,
Vermont 05443, U.S.A.
E-mail: Robert & Christine