It is an honor to listen to an artist talk about their work, their process, their inspirations. I love hearing ideas about process or inspiration put together in a way that I think ‘I have never heard that before’. And the bonus: it makes me think differently about something going on in my own work. This experience with words is analogous to teaching a beginner to throw. We all use different words to communicate the process. I imagine that for most us these words come from our teachers who taught us to throw. Learning to throw is hard and, I think, even harder to explain in words. At some point the student must experience the process for themselves. Sometimes, it takes a new teacher to use slightly different words for a student to understand. When a beginner realizes how to use their body, their hands, when they experience the feeling of the right amount of pressure they get that “ah ha” moment and voila they can center the clay.
Yesterday while listening to Ben I was having lots of “ah ha” moments. I have always thought that a mug should have a flat bottom like a coffee can. Ben makes the bottom of his pots, even his mugs, with a natural curve. He sees the whole interior as one plane as opposed to a horizontal and vertical space. It sets up the pot for his decoration. For me the “ah ha” moment came when he talked about arches and strength. A catenary kiln arch is so strong that it is hard to take down. The same could be said of a curved arched bottom of a mug – it is stronger.
I came away with another gem. In talking about his desire to create soft surfaces, Ben said the tension created by the rib is released by pushing into the surface. He is creating and releasing tension. “Ah ha!” I think about creating tension but not releasing it. And then there was the description of form language. A pot should have the same form language and not have a foot speaking Chinese, a rim speaking Staffordshire and a belly speaking German salt. I smiled as I visually conjured up a pot with these three languages. “Ah ha!” Thanks Ben.