Potter, ceramicist, artist-craftsman, maker, artist in clay: the long trajectory of self-definition, one generation distancing itself from another, keeps on falling. What do people who make ‘functional pots’ call themselves now? Are they moving away from Michael Cardew’s fierce question, at the nadir of respect for pots in the 1980s, the ‘Are you a potter – answer – yes or no?’
Things have changed. Potters can make things that function without being dogmatic, or oppositional, doctrinaire or counter-cultural. This is not standard ware, this is not the age of the dinner service: these are pots that renew our sense of the hybridity of things.
Forget the simplistic and reductive descriptions (they are shiny, stackable, made on the wheel) these pots move with brio between different worlds with their passport of possible utility. And what varied rich actual lives these pots have aside from their named purpose on kitchen shelves and draining boards, in museums, vitrines and mantel pieces. Narrative has often been seen in, or ascribed to, more ostensibly sculptural ceramics, pots with titles. But these pots have stories of their own that are often complex and intriguing, more truly innovative and more interrogative of traditions of making than an overt avant garde.
Functional pots are reinventing the wheel. It is a good time to be a potter, to be making pots.
Edmund de Waal 1998
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