14 November, 2006

thoughts on shapes

i'm looking at a (more accurately, the) demitasse cup i made earlier this year. it was an afterthought, as far as creation goes. just a way to use up clay left over on the wheelhead from throwing teapot spouts. yet it came out well, and now i drink coffee from it most mornings. this, naturally, means i need to make more (having only one). not only for my own use, but i need to practice throwing off the stack (or hump, depending on who you ask).

so, an examination of the shape is in order. how to improve it. two flaws in the existing piece: the foot and the handle. as far as the cup itself, the size is near perfect, as is the weight. the foot, however, is about a quarter inch too wide. as for the handle, it's too large and has consequently is a shape more fitting a larger cup.

i think about shapes often. bowls, plates, cups, pitchers, etc.. the taper of a bowl edge, whether it should be steep and narrow or wide and shallow. what uses are best suited by what shapes? where should a handle go? all of these things are important in the design of a piece. whether i think about them because of my love of pottery, or i love pottery because i think of these things is unclear. likely a mixture. no matter. i still find it important. so much so, that i'll pick up nearly every piece of dinnerware or vase, etc. in a housewares store.

shape defines not only look and use, but how a thing should feel in the hand. feel and fit. this is what i'm striving for: something that feels like a part of your hand. to accomplish this, what is essential to keep in mind is how you hold things. cups, for instance, are round for two reasons: the first is that wheel-thrown ceramics and blown glass produce round shapes. yet, those shapes are easy to alter (i square off bowls often). the second it the natural curve of our hands. this makes round shapes more pleasing to hold. try it yourself. i'm certain you'll agree. even with a handle on a cup or mug, we still often want to hold the actual cup. i know i'm not the only one who will wrap his hands around a mug, fingers slipped through the handle.

with a cup for a hot beverage though, handles are essential. after all, burns suck. so, back to my demitasse cup. because it's small and light (only should hold about 2oz.) i find i can only comfortably fit one finger through the handle. herein lies the flaw. the shape is better suited to accomadate two fingers, though scaled down a bit. i hold it, though, with one through the handle and one directly under it, supporting. however, the curve is not well designed for this. what i need to do, then, is create the handle with this method of holding it in mind. this will allow my natural inclination as to how to hold it feel, well, natural. the next step in my learning of this craft: how to alter the basic forms to suit function.


LentenStuffe said...


I love the inquiry into shapes, because it's always about their aesthetic possibility to be tailored to our themes. Yours is very neatly done, succinct, practical and quite provocative.

I only just saw that you commented on a poem of mine, and I wanted to apologize for not getting back sooner. I wasn't ignoring you.

Would you mind if I linked your blog? And I'd like to read and post some comments on your poetry, if that's OK with you.

twiffer said...

no, i don't mind links.

i like comments on my poetry. constructive criticism, too, is always welcome, since that sort of comment helps the most. you'll have to pay a toll though, in the form of suggesting other irish poets for me to read. beyond heaney, whom i think i have a man-crush on, and yeats.

no need for apologies. we're all busy people.

thanks for stopping by.

twiffer said...

jeez. forgot the topical comments.

i think the practicality of the post stems from my desire to produce functional ceramic pieces. the craft appeals to me on a few levels. the first being the simple pleasure in creation. second, it nicely fufills my desire to be useful, in that i am creating useful objects (granted, i often wind up with more than i can use, but that's what family is for). thirdly, it's a way to experiment with the notions of form and function. i'm a adherent of form following function, and the potter's wheel is a great place to put that theory into practice.