I use each of these bowls from my kitchen cabinets for specific foods. Left-hand stack, bottom to top: Adam Field, salad; Lorna Meaden, pasta, curry, stir fry, or soup; Margret Schwab, cereal. Right-hand stack, bottom to top: Heongyu Kim, oatmeal, stir fry, miso soup, or noodles; Matt Repsher ice cream/sorbet, fruit, other desserts; Martin Möhwald, dessert, salsa.
Do you choose a specific handmade bowl from the cupboard based on what you’re going to put in it? I do. I bring up bowls specifically as they get used the most out of any dishes at my home. There are bowls that are good for cereal (a narrower, steep-sided, thin-walled form with a well-defined foot, making it easier to carry around); different ones that are ideal for a salad (wider and shallower but with a generous volume), and a separate group (varying shapes that are thicker, with a tall and substantial foot), that I prefer for hot foods like oatmeal, soup, pasta, curry, stir fry, etc. (1).
In addition to having favorites for different types of food, there are the pots that are always in use at my house. They’re familiar friends with whom I share my daily routine. I know I’m not alone in this; the cups (2), made by this month’s Spotlight artist Wayne Branum, are used almost every morning at Associate Editor Holly Goring’s house. They’re just the right size for a cup of coffee, the walls are just thick enough to insulate the hand from heat without adding too much weight, the feet are not too wide, and the size and shape of each is comfortable to hold even if you have smaller hands. Branum discusses his interest, both as an artist and architect, in pots and buildings that serve a simple utilitarian purpose.
A pair of cups by Wayne Branum that are always in heavy rotation at Associate Editor Holly Goring’s house. Learn more about his work in the Spotlight article on page 80.
I started to think about why I select specific pots from my kitchen cabinets, and how these same types of experiences inform artists’ decisions as they design, revise, and refine various functional forms as we worked with the artists who contributed articles for the Functional Discussions focus in this issue. Many of the featured potters talk about their own experiences using handmade pots in their daily lives, and how this carries over into their studio practice. They also use their own work, and write about the ways that these experiences help them improve on form design.
Potters Tim Compton, Nick DeVries, Adam Gruetzmacher, Julia Walther, and Lisa York all share the considerations that contribute to the final design of a particular form that each one makes. These include the practical concerns like ease of use, durability, weight, and scale. They also include each artist’s individual aesthetic or conceptual concerns like exploring new ideas, finding new challenges, and visually synthesizing various interests (from cacti, lichen, and peeling paint to Rococo and Art Nouveau interiors, and 1940’s-era fashion). At the end of the day they are all interested in connecting people through use of handmade objects. Explore the stories and techniques behind their cups, pitchers, vases, bread baskets, and flasks starting on page 32.
In addition to the focus articles, the other features in the issue—from a profile on Steve Hansen’s recent work to reviews of exhibitions—also touch on the ways that vessels and sculptures carry multiple, layered meanings. Some are built into the work by the maker, while others are added by those who use or interact with the work.
Next time you reach into the cabinet for a handmade cup, plate, vase, mug, or bowl, or select a serving dish to present a meal, I’d encourage you to think about both why you chose that specific piece to use and the decisions the artist made that contribute to those qualities.